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By: Brian Gallagher

Change is necessary. Businesses, just like anything else in the world, need to change and evolve or they die.

Just think about the dinosaurs. Many scientists will tell you that, regardless of what actually caused the extinction of the dinosaurs, the root cause was they were unable to adapt.

So you have an idea about something that will be valuable to your organization — a project that will make things much easier for everyone at your company or help it better adapt to our time. Or maybe your idea will improve the world. You might have to change the status quo or maybe just change your boss's mind. The status quo is a tall order, so let's just try changing one person's opinion. Changing someone's mind sounds simple enough, but it might be the biggest hurdle you will face when making a change.

I can't recall a time that I have had an open, honest discussion that changed my mind. Maybe the points presented in those conversations chiseled away at my stubbornness here and there, but I largely still think the same way I've always thought.

Perhaps by being cognizant of the psychological underlying opinions, we can make more informed choices and maybe even learn to change the minds of others, be it at the business leadership level to make much-needed changes, the customer's perspective to increase revenue or helping the people you supervise to understand company decisions.

Let's explore why people often dig their heels in and resist others' opinions, and what we can do to avoid falling into the same hole. I find that opinions are difficult to change for three main reasons:

1. We Have Egos And Pride

Egos come in all shapes and sizes, but nonetheless, everyone has one. Admitting fault or being wrong is difficult for most of us, and our ego may be too delicate to take damage or too large to take down.

Our pride, hubristic pride specifically, can also get in our way here, keeping our defenses up to protect our insecurities from being exposed. When we encounter an idea that we disagree with, we may put the defenses up — admitting that we are wrong about something is a sign of weakness, right?

This subconscious behavior can prevent us from admitting we are wrong, resisting the possibility that what we believe is false.

2. Our Opinions Fuse With Our Identity

Many people have tied their opinions to their identities. This is especially true of political beliefs, but it can be applied to other areas of opinion. People may join their personal opinions with their personal identities so deeply that when their opinion is challenged, they view it as an attack on their personal identity. If someone opens themself to a new core opinion, they must redefine themself — something that's difficult to do.

I, for instance, will fight tooth and nail against anyone who says Star Wars: Episode VIII was anything less than a tragedy. I am a Star Wars geek, raised on stormtroopers and Jedi — it is part of who I am. Admitting the film is good would create an identity crisis in me, since being a Star Wars nerd is a part of my identity.

3. Our Schema Sets The Framework

This concept is mind-bending. This is the psychological framework by which we perceive our world. It is like a computer firewall, only certain predetermined types of information can enter. There are various forms: person schema, social schema, self-schema and event schema. Our schemas, developed based on our experiences, can be difficult to change even when presented with contradictory information. This is how confirmation bias occurs.

Our perception of the world is our reality, and our schema can filter out information that doesn't align with our specific world view. Because of this, the experience of an event will be different for two people. This is why you and your friend both remember a college party differently. This is why my child and I watch two completely different movies when we watch Star Wars: Episode VIII. I see a dramatic tragedy; he sees a sci-fi action-packed thrill ride.

So, how do we personally navigate these difficult waters? I point to G.K. Chesterton, who is credited with saying, "The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid."

Opening your mind is necessary to explore opinions. So be patient. Understand why people don't change their minds. It is imperative that we open our minds and assess things as objectively as possible.

Maybe if you open your mind and I open my mind, we can make our businesses, organizations and even our nation settle on greater truths. For the greatest success in both business and life, we need a deeper understanding of the psychology behind opinions and convictions. We need openness and the relentless search for the truth, in all its forms, whether it disagrees with our preestablished opinions and beliefs or not.

This is how we adapt, and this is how we can make change happen. And especially in today's climate, we either adapt or we go the same way as the dinosaurs.

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