Clinging To Old Methods
Even if you’re not a major Marvel fan, a lot of us have likely seen the first of the Marvel series: Iron Man. There’s even several memes revolving around it too.
But one thing that stands out in that movie is the line from Tony Stark while demonstrating his missiles that’ll “end the war.”
“It’s how Dad did it. It’s how America does it. And it’s worked out pretty well so far.”
The irony of all this is that line was dropped right before Tony Stark was kidnapped and his life began to change forever.
But unlike Tony Stark, who despite his inflated ego does embrace change on some level, a lot of people struggle with changing. But what’s worse is that people firmly believe that their methods in the past have “worked out pretty well so far.”
I seriously doubt that considering we need #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo movements to drive home those particular points in order to bring awareness to this issue that’s been going on for decades.
I thought we would be beyond those issue you know?
But this line of thinking isn’t just in social issues, it’s in all manner of our lives. And what’s worse is that these lines of thinking don’t really work.
When was the last time you have seen someone paying for their education by working at McDonalds over the summer?
When was the last time you paid $30 and fed a family of 5+? Without the use of any coupons?
I wasn’t even born by that point and my parents (whom are in their 60s) grew up around those kind of standards.
But there is more to it than that alone. From business standards, to government policies and more.
But Why Do We Cling To These Old Methods?
While these past methods of thinking are not good at all for our society, it’s more important to know why these old methods still linger. And research suggests that it’s due to cognitive immunization.
Cognitive immunization basically means the more that it’s challenged, the firmer someone believes in it. This can explain the science vs religion debate as both sides are firm believers on both ends and aren’t going to switch sides.
What also reinforces that is confirmation bias. People who think the same way will gather around that belief and continue to affirm and confirm others around them. Furthermore what we consume on a regular basis can also cause this.
Because of these elements amongst other things, a lot of people don’t change methods or expand their thinking. Instead they’ll double down on their belief — even when faced with hard facts that suggest otherwise — and find others who agree with them.
Some will even go as far as passing their beliefs onto others. While that’s the case for all of us, obviously some opinions and ways of thinking are dated and would otherwise not be suitable in today’s society.
So How Can People Change?
While confirmation bias and cognitive immunization solidify someone’s belief, people cling to those ideas for another reason. It’s because that line of thinking is useful to them. That and they reinforce their belief through other elements.
Research suggests that there is five methods that we use to enforce this:
- We shield ourselves from people with opposing views. This is much like confirmation bias in that people collectively believe one thing and push out people who don’t “fit.”
- We reduce our exposure to opposing views. Social media has done a great job at that by serving up similar views of what we believe in rather than opposing views that challenge our thinking.
- We deepen an emotional connection with our beliefs. From scare tactics to get children to eat their veggies or that we’re “going to hell and burn in hellfire” if we don’t have a particular religious affiliation.
- We associate with parties that support our views — like confirmation bias — but we also go as far as to discredit our opponents. In fact it’s common practice to look at opposing views weaknesses as opposed to looking at the points made.
- We repeat our belief over and over again, much like a habit.
So what does all of this have to do with being able to change someone’s view?
Well now that we know some of the main tactics that people use, it’s important to look at when using opposing techniques against that way of thinking is appropriate.
After all, while some ways of thinking you may not agree with, it’s important to look at what’s been done in the past.
For example, while starting a business is risky, people shouldn’t discourage that as there are chances of success in there as well. Not to mention when someone fails the first time, they have better odds of succeeding the next time.
On the other hand, seeing women as inferior beings to men may have been “acceptable” in the 40s and 50s, it’s not appropriate now. There are plenty of women who have done fantastic things and I wouldn’t think less of them.
Change Through Feelings
But it’s not a matter of bringing facts in as opposing views will force people to change and change is not something that every person is wiling to do. You will be meeting resistance as my views above may be seen as opposing views or views that are acceptable. It all depends on the person.
To get someone to change though is a matter of being consistent. Showing results and progress. While one fact can be dismissed as a “fluke” it’s harder to oppose views if you show time and again progress.
Of course this is only for smaller beliefs. That challenge increases when it comes to larger ideas. Again #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo are needed because there are so many people with behaviour that’d we’d see more in the early 1900s or 1940s and 50s.
But that alone isn’t going to be enough to change peoples minds.
Instead it’s more important for us to look at feelings.
At our core of all this, our beliefs are fuelled by feelings. Even though many people have told me to get a day job, I refuse to get one because I feel I can “make it.” Furthermore my emotions for getting a day job are non-existent.
My mother recently told me there was a bookkeeping job around town. My response was a chuckle and “Alright.”
Unless we learn why people who think differently feel that way we’re not going to understand them. Furthermore we’re going to alienate individuals and see people who think differently as “wrong” or “strange.”
Even if the behaviour is not acceptable by any stretch of the imagination, thinking those people are “deplorable” or “scum of the earth” isn’t going to solve the issue.
Until we know what motivates the person can they begin to understand why there is resistance on the other side. And some may realize how silly they sound with their rationale.
Like a big-shot CEO who claims their priority is the customer despite not talking to one for several years.
Until we can sit down and have that conversation, people will continue to go back and forth with this debate. This doesn’t mean that one side will lose and the other will win, but we would have a better understanding of where everyone stands so it’s easier to compromise and discuss.
And that can make all the difference in allowing people to accept change.
To your growth!
Eric S Burdon