People who know me know that I am one of those who likes to have a long talk on any subject, present ideas, listen to other people’s points of view, argue and debate. It is a way of learning, discussing, reaching consensus, negotiations and conclusions. I firmly believe that one of the ways to gain knowledge and wisdom is through your own experience and understanding the experience of other people.

Sometimes I have been able to get someone’s thinking to veer the other way and take into account another argument that may have been far removed from their initial opinion.

A few months ago, when people were very afraid of covid-19 vaccines, I used to read many comments on social networks, which encouraged me to reply explaining my point of view and the safety of vaccines, including sources and scientific articles.

They responded to my comment in a somewhat aggressive way and the conversation ended with an insult stating that some laboratory paid me, that I was blind, or that she or he was a person who had already realized things and the “new world order” or that they “hide the truth” from us. If it wasn’t that, then they deleted his or her comments (something I’ve seen happen several times).

My brain was exploding. I would literally get stressed when I couldn’t make them understand even with practical examples. It only made these people more defensive and defend their idea no matter how foolish it sounded. It was like giving medicine to a dead person.

The same is true when you talk about politics, religion, or some other contentious topic. The evidence and best arguments that demolish the idea of the other person (or of us) becomes a transparent object that our brain ignores, that our eyes do not want to see, that we unconsciously know does not agree with us and **for that We give him the counter **.

It got to a point where when I saw a message or comment on a topic that I had something to contribute, I would force myself not to leave a reply, because that would probably make me stay up a couple more hours at night.

Many years ago, a group of psychologists developed a technique called Motivational Interviewing while dealing with patients who abused toxic substances.

The general idea was that instead of forcing someone to change, it is best to help them find their own internal motivation to make the change. You do this by conversing and listening carefully to his responses, showing him a mirror in front of him so he can see his own thoughts clearly. If he expressed an intention to change, then you begin to guide the person to do so.

Bottom line: Ask deeply, listen actively to his answers, ask questions and don’t judge.

Believe it or not, in controlled environments, this technique has helped many people to quit smoking, stop addictions, develop healthy habits such as following a diet and exercising, make voters reconsider their vote and even avoid divorces between parents.

A 2018 study (The Listener Sets the Tone: High-Quality Listening Increases Attitude Clarity and Behavior-Intention Consequences) concluded that having Active listening in front of another person helps them become less closed and open their point of view, increasing their reflective self-awareness.

An example of a classic debate (and widely seen today in the midst of the political situation that Peru is experiencing due to the 2021 presidential elections) is the stage and political points of view. It is preferable to ask someone how they would approach a problem rather than why they advocate a certain approach. That makes them realize the complexity of the problem (such as tax legislation, improvements to the health system, or the elimination of private pension plans) and recognize that they have gaps in what they “claim to know.”

However, the first psychologists to define Motivational Interviewing, William Miller and Stephen Rollnick, warn of the misuse that this technique can be given to manipulate people. We must be aware that we want to use it to help others achieve a positive change in their lives and not to make them do something at our convenience.

So the next time you have such a conversation and you want to help a person achieve a positive goal that will help them grow, try not to keep the conversation about the current state of their thinking, find the “desire to change” and ask him to explain that desire or intention he has 😉