One of the fundamental principles of behavior design is:
To bring people somewhere new, you have to first meet them where they are.
We all have our habits. We all have our ways of thinking about things.
These have been created through weeks, months, and years repetition. They’re deep grooves.
If you try, through brute force, to force someone into a new way of thinking (or acting), you’ll only end up creating resentment & rebellion.
This is why the first step of persuasion or behavior-change is to understand those you’re trying to influence *exactly* as they are.
Let’s say that you’re trying to convince a climate change skeptic that global warming is real.
What do you think would be a better way to start off the conversation?
A. “Global warming is a huge problem that’s going to destroy us all, we really need to be more serious about it.”
B. “The Earth is so complex. Studying a massive system like this is hard. It’s easy to be skeptical of what the scientists say…”
Why? Because you’re not triggering their defenses.
You’re not signaling that you’re an enemy. You’re not telling them that they’re wrong.
Instead, you’re making it clear that you actually have something in common. You’re on the same side.
From that point of agreement, you can move together into new pastures.
But if you don’t meet them where they are–if you try and force them to come to you–you’ll only cause them to solidify their position.
Just as the immune system strengthens when challenged, so do our beliefs.
So as you go out into the world and work your persuasive magic, always be sure to take the time up-front to really know who you’re talking to. It could be the difference between creating an ally, and creating an even more vicious enemy.