We really want to believe that solid reasoning is the driver of our beliefs. We believe things because they make sense. We change our minds when someone offers evidence that disproves our beliefs. We are rational beings.
Unfortunately, there is a growing stash of data to the contrary.
People typically form an opinion first, and then find a rationale for their opinion second. “Intuitions first, reasoning second” as Jonathon Haidt would say. We aren’t rational beings. We use reason to justify and affirm our existing instincts and gut reactions.
Progressives spend a lot of time arguing with conservatives, trying to show them that they have a better argument. Here are all the ways abortion can actually lead to a better support of life. Here is the science behind climate change. Here is evidence of systematic racism. We try to use reason and facts to convince others to change their minds.
Yet the growing data tells us people, both left and right, aren’t actually all that convinced by reasoned argument, especially if it contradicts their core intuitions about right and wrong. Facts don’t often change peoples minds. People follow their hearts and instincts.
So stop relying on reasoned arguments. Stop banging your heads against the wall insisting your point of view is more “rational” and fact-based. Stop believing you are “winning” because you have the “better” argument. You’re not.
Instead, let’s focus on how we can frame issues in a more strategic and effective way. Let’s use linguistics and rhetoric to help connect with people who are skeptical of progressive values and approaches. “Public money” not “taxes”. “Family planning” not “abortion”. “Energy independence” not just “Save the polar bears.”
These all have the same goals in mind. But they are presented in a way that can hook into the conservative mind, offer a framing that is appealing to people of all stripes.
Don’t argue. Reframe.
Don’t fight. Redraw the battlelines so you don’t have to.
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