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Convincing the intelligent

For the intelligent man, don’t tell him what to think, tell him how. If your reasoning is sound, he will come to same conclusion as yours. And if it is not, he will take you to the right one.


Before I even begin, I understand that every situation is unique and human beings are too complex to be explained by just one reason. And even the reasons and explanations that we come-up with, are highly biased. They tell us more about ourselves than the rest of the world. That being said, I think I can outline one reason why it’s easier to convince children to agree with you than adults and especially the more intelligent ones. It has to do with increased intelligence. To agree with an alternative view point, the person needs:

  1. See the faults in his existing view.
  2. Be convinced of the new one’s superiority.

And to be convinced with the new perspective, he has to know that the alternative is absolutely better than his own thought. So why is it harder for adults to accept the superiority of another argument when it is easier for them to follow logic? You can easily say it’s ego, but I want to propose a less damning reason. The reason it is hard for us to be convinced of something new, is precisely because of how developed our brains are. Sounds counter-intuitive? Just humor me for a bit. The thing with our “highly developed brain”s is; they can think of a lot of the different ways you can evaluate a argument. That means before we form an opinion, we have thought of various other ways we can interpret the data and form an opinion. Are Lamborghinis better or Ferraris? Well, before I even think of an answer, my brain goes through a quick session of back & forth argumentation.

Lamborghinis are better looking – But Ferraris are classier! Ferraris have more power – But Lambo’s have amazing breaks!

While we are going through this process, we come up with a lot of different arguments and assign each of them a weight in our decision. Not to be confused with personal preference (which is obviously happening), this weight I mention is more for the argument than the personal preference for the value within it (i.e. Looks vs. Power). Even if we already have selected our preference for Lamborghinis before the argument, we still go through this trying to justify it objectively to the other person. So, the reason we come to a particular decision is more dependent on the weight we give to facts rather than the facts themselves. Adult brains are smart enough to only come up with reasonable and believable arguments, but not wise enough to come-up with the right weight for each argument.

What I am trying to say is… when you try to convince an intelligent person, you will state facts that he or she already knows. Telling him the benefits that he is aware of gives more confidence to him. He gets the illusion he’s heard it all! The reply will be the same he gave himself when he had this argument in his head. And if you do the same, then everyone is just stating what’s already in their head. So how do we break this mutual cycle of unintended confirmation? By coming up something new. If I have “heard it all”, no obvious fact can change my decision. So the choice is to either come up with something absolutely new or come up with a way to help the me change the way I weigh the existing facts. Get the person to see why your assigned values are the right way to evaluate. Change that, and you create a paradigm shift! To change the opinion, you need to find the the core subjective reason why the obvious is being perceived differently. And once you can convince a person to value the facts the way you value them, they will do arrive at the same decision you do, while feeling like they arrived there themselves (which takes care of the ego problem).

In short; it’s hard for adults to agree because they have “heard it all before!”. What you need to work on is how to change the way they “process” what they already now.

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Creating something new and coming-up with orginial solutions are sure high for me. I love the world I live-in and instead of making a dent in it I'd be more than happy if, through-out my life, I am able to take one out!