How to Change People Who Don’t Want to Change | The Behavioral Science Guys
(Music) David: OK, full disclosure: today’s title is an overstatement, but only a little. Joseph: Those of us with a bad habit have probably heard all the guilt, pleading and logic for change a million times. We are prepared to resist and combat every logical or emotional attack. Especially smokers. More than most any addiction, they have seen the anti-smoking ads, the horrific images of cancerous lungs. Everybody has told them a hundred times to just stop; and does it work? Of course not. So, let’s look for BS you can use. (Music)
Alright. First, let’s find some smokers . . . . . . and a couple of confederates. In the control condition, we will have Cole and Josh try the traditional lecture approach. Hardly any takers. 90% of the smokers responded resentfully. Just under half even took the paper when it was forced into their hand. So, reminding people of something they already know, but don’t want to think about, didn’t work. Now, here comes the BS you can use. This time, we will have our intrepid confederates try something different. We will replace a tired lecture with an “Influential Question.” This time, Cole approaches the subject with a fake cigarette and asks for a light. Joseph: This is fascinating. The adults are now telling the boy why he shouldn’t smoke. David: It gets even better. Now that the smoker is making the anti-smoking arguments, the kids turn it back to the smoker with an “Influential Question.” Joseph: Just look at the body language this time, as compared to the control condition. You don’t see defensiveness. You see openness. David: Exactly. In this condition, close to 90% of subjects not only lectured the boys about the evils of smoking, but committed to trying to quit themselves. And it gets even better. One of them saw the boys later, and came back to continue the rant. Now, the skeptical scientist in me wants to ask, ‘So, was that motivation just temporary?’ Sure they pocket the paper, but do they actually do anything? Good question. When Ogilvy and Mather conducted the experiment in Bangkok, calls to the quit line actually went up 40% on the day of the experiment. Joseph: Wow! David: We don’t know if they actually quit, but we do know that their motivation lasted past the interaction. Yeah, so let’s talk about this. Why did that work? David: I see a few things going on here, but let’s focus on one of them. When you are trying to influence people who need motivation and not information, don’t offer more information. Joseph: Your only hope is to avoid provoking what psychologists call reactance. The best way to do that is not with speeches, but with… questions? Give them a safe environment to explore motivations they already have. David: Exactly. The kids’ approach allowed the smoker to feel emotionally safe, which allowed them to acknowledge their own ambivalence about their habit. So, I have to reintroduce them to values they already believe in by tricking them with a cute kid or a puppy. Close. (Laughs) Stop forcing them to take the wrong side of the argument by lecturing them. Instead, use questions to help them explore their own motivations at their own pace. And it works, too. Go ahead, try it at home. I’m Joseph Grenny. And I’m David Maxfield. And that’s all the BS for today. (Music) Joseph: Sharpen your behavioral science skills by subscribing to our channel for our latest videos and updates. Click here to subscribe, where we always promise to share some BS you can use. David: You’re not trying to win an argument. Get an exhaustive list of all the positives, and then turn to the negatives. And once they make a list of all of those positives: validate, validate, validate! Agree with it. Acknowledge. Support them. As soon as they realize that it’s okay with you that there are benefits in this bad habit, then they will feel okay about acknowledging that there are downsides. You’re trying to get the truth out, because you believe the truth will motivate healthy behavior.