Many people underestimate their influence, especially if they don’t get  immediate agreement from another person. But you can have a bigger impact than you imagine.

A Surprise Success

Last April, a friend I’ll call “Ed” told me he planned to fly out of state and return a week or two later. Ed believes in avoiding medications as much as possible, using natural remedies instead. I agree, to some extent. But Ed thought that, by strengthening his immune system with herbs and essential oils, he’d be safe from COVID19 while flying.

I phoned him, but got voicemail, so left a friendly, caring message reminding him how serious COVID-19 is and how little was known about it. I asked him to  consider whether, if avoiding this disease were as easy as sniffing essential oils and ingesting herbs, why wouldn’t these things be more commonly recommended or more widely used when so many people were ill and dying? What’s more, he might get to his destination, then be unable to return, if flights were cancelled for safety. I asked him, please, not to go.

I doubted that Ed would take my advice. Didn’t hear from him, so assumed he’d gone on his trip. I even forgot that I’d left a message. A few weeks later, I phoned to see whether he was back home safe and sound. He said, “I didn’t go.” I asked why. To my surprise, he replied, “Because of your message.”

Changing Minds Takes Longer than We Imagine

Think of times when someone influenced you to change your mind–not about some everyday matter, such as what movie to watch, but rather, a strong belief. Perhaps someone helped you see a better side to a third person you didn’t like or offered a possible explanation for the third party’s unattractive behavior. Conversely, someone warned you that the new boyfriend who sends flowers every week and phones five times a day might be an abuser trying to “groom” you. 

Or maybe they convinced you to do something you really didn’t want to do, like cut down on caffeine, or conversely, not to do something you really did want to do, such as sky-diving.

How many times did you change your mind immediately after the influential person spoke? Most people would answer, “seldom” or “never.” 

The best mediator I know told me that a spouse who files for divorce has been thinking about it for a long time. But for the other spouse, it may be a bolt out of the blue. This mediator deliberately slows down the mediation process to give the other spouse a chance to catch up mentally. It’s hard to negotiate an amicable agreement when one spouse is in denial about the divorce itself.

Similarly, one might initially dismiss an unwelcome opinion, but consider it more seriously when they hear it from a few other folks. It might not always take a whole village, but it sometimes takes a committee to change someone’s mind.

Stop, Look and Reflect

When I get little or no feedback on a Facebook post, I tend to assume that either nobody read the post or they neither liked or disliked it. Fortunately, I’ve learned that, when I post to a Facebook group that I administer, Facebook will show me how many people viewed the post. It’s always three or four times as many as those who commented or reacted. 

Thus, when I get little reaction to Facebook posts outside that group, where Facebook doesn’t indicate the number of viewers, I remind myself that a number of people have probably read and thought about it. 

Never consider a persuasive effort, or a consensus-seeking conversation a failure without letting it rest for a while.  Stop and  remember what it  takes for you to change your mind about significant issues. Give the other person a chance to catch up. Give yourself a chance to further consider their perspectives.

One Big Caveat

Don’t underestimate your power of persuasion, if you go about persuasion in an enlightened manner. That’s why I’m so enthusiastic about teaching enlightened persuasion skills. They can change your life, as they have mine.

But as I have written in my books [1] and several other blog posts [2], harshly contradicting people, using sarcasm, accusing others of being wrong-headed or bad is doomed to failure. It only makes others dig in their heels and reinforces their own opinions.

Again, ask yourself how would you react if someone said you’re raising your children wrong? How often has snarky sarcasm changed your mind about politics or religion? Have you ever in your life been inspired to change your mind about a serious matter as a result of an in-your-face “You’re wrong”? I thought not. You are wise to take your time in changing your mind. So it isn’t realistic to expect an instant “Yes” from another. That’s just not the way human minds work.

“Keep Calm and Carry On” 

With that caveat in mind, learn and hone effective persuasion skills, practice them with patience, give others a chance for their minds to catch up, and you can make life better for more than just yourself.

And I can help you with that. We can speed up the process. If you’re reading this blog post, you’re already on my website. Use the menu buttons above for more information about training, including my new virtual training for individuals.


[1] Bridges to Consensus; Love on the Rocks with a Twist–Delightful Fiction with Lessons on Dealing with Others.

[2] To read past blog posts about avoiding wrong-making, enter “Silver Rule” in the search line at upper right.