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When Communication Needs More Than Just the Facts

link to original storyFeb 28, 2017
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Changing people’s minds is hard. But we often feel like it should be simple. Gather the facts, share them in a civil way, and you’re done. People’s emotional responses may create obstacles, but that only means our data isn’t compelling or that they’re being illogical. We should continue gathering and presenting our facts until people see reason.


We want this assumption to be true, and sometimes it is. We respond well to logic in areas where we don’t have entrenched beliefs or where conflicting opinions don’t question fundamental assumptions of our self worth. These discussions go smoothly because they don’t threaten our identity — that fuzzy, amorphous ball of Beliefs, Values, and Important StuffTM that tells us who we are at our core.


In issues where our identity is involved, there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that logic cannot change someone’s mind, no matter how clearly stated. In these discussions, people’s decision making processes are structured more like a CS101 midterm. Nothing is well named, interfaces are murky, encapsulation is an accident (if it exists at all), and most things work by side effect. We did start building our mental code base when we were toddlers, after all.


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