Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Threatening the Self

Fact based arguments often have a hard time overcoming long-held beliefs that people tie to the self.

Studies show that threatening the self, especially through facts can be damaging to the argument's source and can further entrench the misinformed in their beliefs.

It also states that: "When there’s no immediate threat to our understanding of the world, we change our beliefs. It’s when that change contradicts something we’ve long held as important that problems occur."

One way to overcome this problem is by separating the self from the threatening argument. This can be done through self-affirmation, and specifically fortifies what you believe to be you, apart from the new information. 

It is easy to fall into a locked down, defensive mindset. This is rarely helpful though and should often be actively fought against. Can you think of a time where being defensive was helpful in improving your life or expanding your knowledge?

This whole concept also plays into the idea that actively seeking knowledge that refutes or argues against what you believe to be true fosters growth. 

After all, how can you truly believe your knowledge in a potentially "controversial" subject if you haven't tried to understand the opposition's perspective

On the surface, people don't like honesty, they like their view of the world to be confirmed. Both parties putting work into a discussion can resolve many issues, however with the imperfect communication strategies many of us have, sometimes there is little hope for reform (for either side).

Though even this knowledge can be helpful for everyone. Realize that sometimes you are the dense one and need to separate the argument from the self. Also realize that a receiver to your information may be this person. 

Upon realizing this, it may be time to try this new communication strategy or simply decide the conversation is not worth pursuing (which is not inherently a bad thing).