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Stop trying to change people’s minds

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Much of what we do as change agents – or what we imagine we do – is try to change people’s minds. We use impassioned language in social media posts. We sit down with our relatives and have an awkward conversation. We agonize over how to frame something in a way so that others can truly hear us.

The problem is they can’t hear us. They won’t hear us. Just as we won’t hear them.

And that’s OK.

I’ve heard so many people, especially since the election, cite statistics that show that social media posts never change anyone’s minds. And so they conclude that social media has no purpose and isn’t worth their time.

I’ve always been skeptical of this claim. First, the goal isn’t necessarily to change the mind of whoever you are speaking to directly, but all the folks silently observing in the shadows. Even if we never change the minds of whoever we’re speaking to, we may just yet influence the thinking of someone lurking in the shadows.

But more importantly, I don’t buy that the point of stating our views and arguing our position is to change people’s minds. We don’t need to change our “opponents'” minds in order to enact change. We don’t need Trump supporters or climate change deniers to have a change of heart.

Rather, what we need is to organize and energize those of us who already share values and a vision for the future. We need to get those of us who agree, but for whatever aren’t motivated to act, to step up and join the change movement.

There are enough of us who want change to make it happen. Use your energy to convince them to do more. Convince them that real change is possible if we do it together.

No one will change their mind because they are being coerced or pressured into doing so. That’s the brick wall we see every day on social media. But people will commit to a cause if you can convince them that their efforts will pay off.

The work is not in convincing those who don’t think like us to think differently. The work is in encouraging those who do to step up and act.


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Peter Schulte

Peter Schulte is the founder and editor of Kindling. Peter is also Senior Digital Engagement Associate for the Pacific Institute and the UN Global Compact's CEO Water Mandate, connecting businesses to sustainable water practices. Peter holds a B.S. in Conservation and Resource Studies and a B.A. in Comparative Literature from University of California, Berkeley, and an M.B.A. in Sustainable Systems from Pinchot University. He lives in Bellingham, WA, USA with his wife, son, and cat.

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