Changing Minds

How to Change Someone’s Mind

By on December 20th, 2016

You’ve probably been in a situation where you’ve wanted to change someone’s mind but didn’t know how to. It could’ve been a coworker, your boss, a customer or your partner.

Getting someone to change their mind isn’t easy and trying to do so often leads to failure.  However, in my career I’ve learned a few tricks to get people to come around to a different way of thinking.

One of the best methods I’ve used in getting someone to change their mind is actually a fairly old method… the Socratic Method.

The Greek philosopher Socrates lived from 470 – 399 BC and he was a huge influence on western philosophy. Modern science is based on the Socratic method which deconstructs problems through questioning and analysis.

Socratic questioning is really quite simple and once you start using it, you’ll wonder how you ever got through life without it.

There are six basic categories of Socratic questions:

1. Questions for clarification:

  • Why do you say that?
  • How does this relate to our discussion?
  • “Can you be more specific about the approach you are going to take?”

2. Questions that probe assumptions:

  • What could we assume instead?
  • How can you verify or disapprove that assumption?
  • “Why do you think this market segment has value?”

3. Questions that probe reasons and evidence:

  • What would be an example?
  • What is….analogous to?
  • What do you think causes to happen…? Why?
  • “Can you prove that those are the values of that market segment?”

4. Questions about Viewpoints and Perspectives:

  • What would be an alternative?
  • What is another way to look at it?
  • Would you explain why it is necessary or beneficial, and who benefits?
  • Why is this the best?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of…?
  • How are…and …similar?
  • What is a counterargument for…?
  • “Considering the primary market research, do you think there are other channels to communicate with our audience?”

5. Questions that probe implications and consequences:

  • What generalizations can you make?
  • What are the consequences of that assumption?
  • What are you implying?
  • How does…affect…?
  • How does…tie in with what we learned before?
  • “What kind of results would we get if we ignore that market segment?”

6. Questions about the question:

  • What was the point of this question?
  • Why do you think I asked this question?
  • What does…mean?
  • How does…apply to everyday life?
  • “Why do you think that market segment wants that product?”

Getting someone to consider their assumptions is critical in changing their mind. If you ask for more and more clarification on an assumption, eventually you’ll get to a point where the person stops having an answer and you’ll see doubt creep into their minds. That’s when you have the opportunity to make a suggestion. It usually only takes a couple of probing questions before they’ve got that look of doubt.

As a marketing communications consultant to small and medium sized businesses, I stress the importance of maintaining and building credibility to all my clients. One of my clients had a unprofessional looking logo which was impacting their credibility. To get them to consider a redesign, I used Socratic questioning.

I started by asking, “How important is your credibility in securing contracts?” They answered, “very important.” Next I asked, ” was there ever a time when poor credibility impacted your business?” Immediately, that opened the conversation to how they were routinely concerned with looking unprofessional and that it did impact their operations as well as their contract acquisition. I didn’t even have to ask the next question to get them to come around to a logo redesign.

The more you use Socratic questioning, the better you’ll get at slipping it into conversation. In fact, the more you use it, you’ll come to see just how great it is for stimulating conversation.

Try Socratic questioning the next time you are faced with the challenge of having to change someone’s mind and let me know how it works!

If you want to get more tips on persuasion, then check out my blog at www.darcypaterson.ca/blog/.

Darcy Paterson helps small-to-medium sized businesses who struggle with understanding how their websites can improve sales. To see how Darcy Paterson can help your business, visit www.darcypaterson.ca.


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