Ah, the art of persuasion—a superpower for us mortals. It’s how your parents got you to eat your veggies and clean your room, even though you probably wanted to eat chicken nuggets and live in a pigsty.
Everyone has their own style when it comes to swaying others. Some get aggressive, while others kill us with kindness. And now science has figured out the most effective way to change someone’s mind. The researchers followed ChangeMyView (a forum on Reddit where users post opinions and see if any replies makes them change their mind) for two years to determine which techniques worked best. It’s not the perfect sample—this study took place entirely online, and the users knew others were going to try to persuade them. But there are still three big-picture strategies to employ when trying to win your next argument.
1. Determine if they’ve got their mind made up.
Some people are easy to sway, and others are downright stubborn. Before you come with guns blazing (which isn’t a good tactic anyway, as you’ll see below), take a moment to get a read on how open the person is to other ideas. Researchers found people who use “I” statements are more malleable than those who opt for the universal “we.”
2. Use calm language.
We know what speaking calmly sounds like, but calm language is a little different. It’s all about avoiding words that excite us and make us feel riled up or upset, like “threat” or “loser.” Duller language can lull people over to your side.
3. Offer specific examples.
As humans, we struggle to grasp the abstract. (It’s easier to persuade someone to clean their room than it is to convince them to become a neat freak.) Getting specific can be as simple as changing “a” to “the,” so not “a point I’m making” but “the point I’m making.”