Learning For Life

The Fact Is ... Don't Use Facts

When we first talked about how to change other people's minds in To Change Minds … Change Your Approach?, Red was shocked to learn that Black, her highly pragmatic (albeit extremely sarcastic) sister, who often thinks of disagreements as sport, actually suggested using approaches that seemed more in keeping with Red's "style" as a warm and fuzzy mom, who goes out of her way to avoid conflict.

Of course, that led to us talking (initially, Black thought Red just wanted to bask in the light of being right, but quickly realized that the straight-A student wanted to better understand the approach), and we ultimately created the following list because we both love lists.

We don't think this is a definitive list, but we agree that you can't go wrong using any/all of the following approaches or (as Black would say) strategies … whether in an attempt to change someone's mind or only to better understand their position.

  1. R-E-S-P-E-C-T
    Aretha Franklin said it best … as we strongly believe respect should permeate everything we do. Everyday. Unfortunately, it seems to have gotten lost somewhere. It's ok to disagree with someone, but if we remember to treat them with respect, we'll all be less defensive – and more open to learning what we each think (and why).
  2. See Another Side
    It's human nature to trust people who are like us or who see things the same way we do, and it can be difficult to understand different perspectives. Too bad Aretha didn't sing E-M-P-A-T-H-Y, but there's a reason for the expressions, "Don't judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes" or "There are two sides to every story" (although Black will argue there are at least three, and often more). Want the best way to understand another person's perspective or opinion? Ask them. And then listen.
  3. Seek Common Ground
    Have you ever been had a conversation with someone new and found you had something in common? Or, have you ever been arguing with someone and suddenly find that you agree on something? If so, you'll know the feeling of connectivity and comfort (sometimes satisfaction or even amazement) that comes from finding common ground. And even if it's something small, that's often enough to build on. So, look for it.
  4. Remember, You're Not In A Courtroom
    So often, when trying to change someone's mind, the tendency is to present your case as if you're in a court of law defending your position while shooting down the opposing side. Our mom takes that to the extreme, to the point that Black used to start conversations with her by saying, "You are right, I am wrong, what is the topic?" The problem is that rather than starting from a place where you might be able to meet in the middle, it immediately puts each side in an extreme position. And all we can say is … good luck with that.
  5. Leave A Way Out
    Have you ever been in a situation where you were certain you were right, and then during the course of conversation, realize that you might not have considered all the issues, or you may have been missing an important detail? Some people are better at dealing with that (Black will merely say, "Fair enough"), while others will hold their ground because they're afraid they'll look stupid or weak if they "give in". If you're trying to change someone's mind, you need to make sure there's a graceful way for that to happen.
  6. Emotion Overrules Facts
    In fact (pun intended), changing someone's mind is one of the rare times when Black believes that Red's warm-and-fuzzy approach is more conducive to success than her own Vulcan-like approach. People make decisions emotionally and then evaluate the evidence. And often, once a decision's made, people may resist believing "opposing" evidence or even "interpret" the facts so that it supports their decision.
  7. Start With A Story
    We're a story-telling society. We remember stories long after we've forgotten facts and figures. And we remember what we've experienced more than something we have read or heard. It's the power of stories. So, we end our list with an idea of where to start the conversation if you want to change someone's mind. Tell a story, give an example, conjure up a memory of a past experience … anything that will make the topic relatable, and provide an emotional foundation on which you can build.

WARNING: Although this post was presented as ways to approach changing someone's mind … keep in mind it is a two-way street … and you may, ironically, find yourself changing your mind.

People have told us they’re using our sisterly banter to start conversations with others (family, friends, and even in classrooms), so Black created “Conversation Starters”.

Do you feel like January and New Year resolutions are a bit like the movie “Groundhog Day”? Many people are like Red, beginning the new year with old goals that always seem to end the same way … a year later, you feel like you didn’t make much, if any, progress. So, why even bother making resolutions? Well, Black looks at things differently (it’s a good thing that never changes), which might make all the difference …

Red's HeadRed assets.rebelmouse.io

I love the holidays but definitely have mixed feelings about the start of a new year. On one hand, it's like a clean slate, a fresh beginning, where you can try to do things better – whether specific things like dieting, exercise, keeping the piles of paper from accumulating or "big picture" things like trying to spend more time with friends and family, and being smarter about money. But on the other hand, I hate feeling pressure to have a list of goals and resolutions, especially since I know it'll be an overly ambitious list and I'll soon "slide back" into old habits. And then I'll feel like a failure.

Black's HeadBlack assets.rebelmouse.io

If it makes you feel any better, I suspect you are not alone in your approach. Many people have lists of New Year's resolutions that are too long and too ambitious. Which means you are setting yourself up for failure, not success. What would happen if you took your list and picked a few that you think are the most important, or would have the biggest impact on your life? Then set realistic year-end goals and work backward which will let you stay focused on where you are going. Then if you "slide back" it is a temporary situation not a total failure.
  • Try to think back to your most important goal pre-COVID. Why was this your #1 goal and is it still important to you?
  • If you could only have two or three things on your New Year's resolution list, what would they be and why?
  • Do you look at New Year's resolutions as what you want to start doing on January 1 or what you'd like to have accomplished by December 31?

People have told us they're using our sisterly banter to start conversations with others (family, friends, and even in classrooms), so Black created "Conversation Starters".

It’s that time of year. Yes, it’s fun and festive, and filled with traditions. Including Red lamenting that it’s full of stress and seemingly endless “to-do” lists. Black can’t help but point out that in addition to rereading her checklist on how to survive and thrive during the holidays, she should also reread this short “Conversation Starter” (and talk about it with her daughters) about how to put the “happy” in Happy Holidays!

Red's HeadRed assets.rebelmouse.io

I can't believe how quickly the holidays are flying by. On one hand, all I want to do is enjoy them as I love this time of year. But I can't because there always seems so much to do. And I'm afraid that if I don't do everything on my holiday "to-do" list, I'll disappoint people, including me. You don't have this problem as you don't have kids and you live alone, plus others aren't looking to you to make the holidays festive and memorable.

Black's HeadBlack assets.rebelmouse.io

You seem to start with your "to-do" list, whereas I think about the significance of the holiday and what will make it meaningful and memorable. Yes, it is a more pragmatic approach, but it makes the planning so much easier. You know that I dislike the over-commercialization of holidays, but it does provide a reminder that it is important to let others know how much you appreciate them.


  • What's most important to you during the holidays? Why?
  • Describe your "perfect" (yet realistic) holiday celebration. What it would take to make it come true?
  • If you celebrate with others, have you ever discussed what's important to them?

P.S. – Since this is being posted in the midst of the December holiday season (what Red refers to as the "silly season"), you might be interested in these recent posts:

    Events in our lives (both personally and in the world around us) may change from year to year, but amidst the joy and festiveness of the holidays, there’s always a certain amount of stress and challenges to get everything done. This year’s no different, and I’m sure Black would suggest (sarcastically, of course) I might want to reread my tried-and-true holiday survival list …

    It's official! The holiday "silly season" (as I call it) is now underway and before I know it, it will be New Year's Day and I'll be looking back and asking, "Where did December go?!" This year's holiday goals …

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