Have you ever talked with a liberal and made a comment that shuts him down completely? “Trump sure is getting a raw deal with that FBI raid, isn’t he?” His eyes go glassy, and he starts to look for the exit. Or he repeats something automatically, like “Trump deserves anything he gets.”
This “orange man bad” mantra is often called “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” It effectively shuts down all communication between disagreeing sides and prevents any kind of meaningful dialogue, even between good friends or family members. Even intelligent people who are suffering greatly from Biden/liberal policies, through loss of jobs, high gas and oil prices, rapid inflation, high taxes, or curbs on religious freedoms, won’t be able to change their minds and consider voting for a conservative or moderate candidate once he is somehow linked to Donald Trump.
They say, “If Trump is for it, then I am against it” even if that means they pay $5 a gallon for gas, can’t get formula for their babies, or can’t afford to heat their homes this winter.
Why does this happen? How do people make up their minds, and why do they stubbornly refuse to change them?
You would think that people would evaluate important issues logically, like a math equation where 2+2=4, but this is not true with beliefs, especially when politics is involved.
Keith M. Bellizzi, professor of human development and family sciences, from the University of Connecticut, is among many who study cognitive psychology and neuroscience, and his article on the subject is a good start. He explains that there are survival systems that are hard-wired into our brains that actually cause stubborn adherence to wrong beliefs.
“Belief perseverance” is one such system. “Being presented with facts — whether via the news, social media or one-on-one conversations — that suggest their current beliefs are wrong causes people to feel threatened.” They will reject the evidence, and often their original beliefs will become stronger.
“Confirmation bias” is “the natural tendency to seek out information or interpret things in a way that supports your existing beliefs. Interacting with like-minded people and media reinforces confirmation bias.” This is why liberals watch MSNBC and conservatives watch Fox.
The brain itself is hardwired to reinforce existing opinions and beliefs, even if this might cause harm. When you win an argument, your body releases a rush of pleasurable hormones like dopamine and adrenaline. In a high-stress or threatening situation, cortisol is released, which depresses your logical mind and triggers the more basic part of your brain, which controls fight or flight. You “see red,” voices are raised, fists get clenched, and it’s much more difficult to understand what the other side is saying.
Other sociologists have identified other biases that effect logical vs. emotional thinking.
“Believing people from your tribe”
Humans developed in tribal cultures, which continue to this day. You are much less likely to believe an outsider. Nowadays, a tribe is not just a reference to ethnicity or religion, but also belief systems in global warming or abortion, where members are easily identified by how they look or what they say.
“The big lie”
People, by nature, are well intentioned, and they assume that others are as well. So when they hear a lie, they tend to believe it. Interestingly, the bigger the lie, the more likely it is to be believed because they assume that no one would lie about something of such importance.
All of these factors are related to survival going back to the earliest days of mankind. If you constantly have to be re-evaluating your beliefs, such as “growling tigers are a reason to run,” then you might consider having a chat with such a tiger — and end up being his lunch.
So how can you reach people with closed minds?
1. Be from within their tribe. Start by reinforcing what the two of you have in common — you may have lived in the same city, had similar jobs or similar backgrounds.
2. Get permission to discuss — “Would you like to tell me about your views on global warming?” This makes the idea of a discussion non-threatening.
3. Resolve never to argue or raise your voice. Don’t threaten or invoke fear. If things start to become even a little heated, then withdraw — “we can always discuss this later” or “now may not be the time to discuss this.” Getting into a heated argument is going to activate the liberal’s lizard brain and end logical reasoning.
4. Start small. Don’t try to convince the liberal that Donald Trump is the next George Washington. Go for a smaller issue that doesn’t challenge one of his core beliefs. “Should Iran have a nuclear weapon?” or “Would it be good for China to control our farmland?”
5. Pick topics where you are well-versed. Most of the people you will be talking with know very little factual information — they are used to hearing talking points and then parroting them back to you.
6. Ask questions. There is nothing threatening about asking an honest question, especially about something that is important to the liberal. Make it clear that you are open and willing to listen to his side and willing to change your mind. There is a brain/hormone thrill associated with converting someone to his side that will entice him to interact. Your openness models good behavior — if you’re willing to change your mind, then he should be open-minded as well.
7. Ask “why?” Few can survive three “whys” in a row. The brainwashed rarely know the logic behind what they parrot.
8. Focus on common sense and fairness. “Does it make sense to spend $2 trillion to lower global temperature by 0.0006 degrees?” “Does it seem fair to make a middle-class worker who never went to college pay for the student loan of a Harvard graduate with a women’s studies degree?”
9. If you start to see the liberal’s resistance crumbling, share how you used to feel how he did, but you changed your mind when you learned new information.
10. If you get him to change his mind on one topic, don’t gloat or insist that he admit he was wrong. Just say, “I’m glad we had a chance to discuss this. I learned a lot from you. I hope we can talk again in the future.” Then come back another time with a different topic that is more important.
Changing minds is not a quick process. Patience and self-control are essential. Unless we can learn how to speak to our fellow Americans in a kind and understanding manner, we will never heal the divide in our nation.