T Nation

Why it's Hard to Change Your Mind


#1

"People are afraid of changing their minds.
Changing your mind is a door you don't want to open, because you're afraid of what's behind it.
Changing your mind means losing all your friends.
Changing your mind means a complete revolution in your life.
Changing your mind means publicly admitting you've been wrong.
...People don't want to change their mind." ~ Peter Hitchens (brother of Christopher Hitchens)

I think this is interesting insight. Why arguments go crazy and why people, even in defeat hold so fervently to their beliefs.
This quote reminded me of a recent thread here (actually I think it is still sputtering along, though no where as feverishly as it was), that I participated little in, but did the popcorn munch most of the time. The OP's sentiments and arguments in this thread was so utterly destroyed and dismantled and flatly abused that there was absolutely no recovery from it. I think it was the most thorough destruction of a particular argumentation I had ever seen that only by purposefully diluting yourself, it wouldn't be completely obvious. The opponent dismantled every single point to a fine powder in which there was nothing left for the OP to hang on to. And it is the most obvious case I have ever seen where the sheer force of logic and the argumentation could not be denied.
I mean, I have seen occasions of winning and losing but none so totally complete and obvious as this one.
The OP conceded nothing. Presiding over a smoldering heap of ruin that was his point, unwilling to concede anything in the face of it's utter destruction. It bewildered me because of the thoroughness of it. It bewildered me that the opponent, in the face of ample opportunity generally steered clear of ad hominems, and the OP was tossing them out left and right. The sheer force of brutal logic, he wouldn't budge from his position. Why?

I listened to an interview of Peter Hitchens who did go through a complete change of mind, precisely for the reasons I listed. The arguments against him were so strong as to not be able to be ignored. But then he explained what it means to change one's mind, and he said the above. I made sure I got it verbatim because I think he put it perfectly. It means more then conceding a point. The downstream effects are a personal revolution.

So when you are arguing out there (and I think most of us know already), you are fighting a lost cause. Most people are not willing to pay the price of being wrong and changing their minds...

Let me conclude by saying, I am far from perfect. I may be wrong on somethings and have wavered on those things I think vulnerable to change. Say like the Iraq War. I have been both for and against it and not totally sure where I stand now, though I am currently leaning more towards it, despite popular opinion. That's a personal example though, I certainly do not mean the topic to be about the Iraq War, but about changing your mind and what it means.

Anybody have experiences of changing their minds and the consequences there of?


#2

Yep. Plenty. After bottoming out from substance abuse. Its hard to admit that not only are you wrong, but to accept the real life consequences of destroying your life almost in its entirety, by your own hand. That ain't no interwebs argument of no consequence. That's yellow eyes, jail time, wrecked family, and acknowledgement of your own complete ignorance (by far the hardest part).

The benefits can't be understated though. I could go on and on but it still wouldn't be adequate.

Suffice to say, being wrong and admitting it, as I've done on here a few times, is small potatoes after a little practice. Humble pie is an acquired taste and a little humility takes the bitterness right out of it.


#3

You have my total respect what you have done takes courage and farsighted thinking.

Good job my friend.

ZEB


#4

As for changing minds on this site I have only seen it happen maybe twice in something like 12 years of posting here. That's why I always say this stuff is just for fun. You might better define your own ideas when debating them but you will never change anyone's mind not in an Internet debate. But you can make them plenty mad and well....that's fun and certainly better than TV and can even rival a good book :smile:

However, face to face encounters over a long period of time I have seen minds change. And as you said it takes courage to self assess and take that step.


#5

That's kinda funny for a couple of reasons-

  1. It took a court order as a condition of my bond to even go to the meetings.
  2. No One would Ever have said that about farsighted prior to changing.

Since then I've gone to college, developed some great relationships, marriage, fatherhood, and all kinds of good stuff.

Thanks for the show of respect. To be honest, I couldn't have done it without a lot of help from some great people and a God of my understanding.

One guilty pleasure I may have to hold on to is messing with Bismark, though. That is too much fun sometimes.


#6

Pat that was a very thoughtful post and while I am on my phone, I cannot give reign to the deluge of thoughts this cues in my head. It is a topic that I have spent a large amount of time thinking about over the years, but I thoroughly agree with you and Hitchens.

It boils down to fear, helped along by a healthy serving of ego (we all have one). And beyond that fear is the ability to change and to become better than you were. However, it requires pushing through the fear and ego: you have to face the fact that you don't have everything figured out like you thought you did.

Beyond that barrier is a weapon that can make you a powerful person. Not a politically powerful or financially wealthy one, but personally powerful. You see that barrier take down all kinds of people: its the reason they stay in shitty relationships, its the reason they CREATE shitty relationships, or manipulate, or are passive aggressive, or stay in a crappy dead end job, or a job they hate, or don't go back to school. Its really sad, and it happens to all of us in some form or other, at some point in our lives. Many of us move through and beyond it. Some take some time to come to terms with it, bit theyove one. But for some reason the admission of being wrong in a discussion is probably the hardest to conquer, and I think Hitchens gives the reasons.

Its absolutely fascinating, in kind of a morbid way, to see. Working in science I am wrong almost daily. At least weekly. I have to confront this all the time when bench experiments don't work or the outcome I thought didn't occur, or someone doesn't like my proposal. Dealing with it repeatedly is the only way to really kill that, and most people do not want to.


#7

Very well stated. It's hard. And scary in a very concrete way. But man, when you finally get to the other side you start to see how much of a revolution it can create, to use Pat's terms.

I was mentoring a guy who went to jail in a similar circumstance, got out and called me. No idea why, but we were casual acquaintances. Not exactly the life line.

And he asked me if I would teach him math.

He wanted to get his GED and go to college.

You know why I said yes? Because that is a scary, ballsy decision to have to make. Go back to HIGH SCHOOL? yeah maybe online, but you have to see some people in person. At a high school, at some point in the process both early and late (at least here). How hard it is to walk back there as a guy approaching 28...

I wanted to reinforce his decision to change. He wanted to create a life for himself and his 2 kids that he had almost destroyed. Because it takes balls to clean up and go back to square one, 10 years ago.

He got a job on salary now, with benefits, and opportunity to be promoted to some good size dough in the future. and he's clean, and he's engaged. Revolution is right.


#8

Yeah, I was your typical indoctrinated teenager regurgitating "The Daily Show" as if I had any idea what was going on. I was 18 in 2004 and voted for John Kerry (Jesus Christ that is so hard to admit.) It wasn't that I believed the liberal nonsense I professed, I just wasn't actually thinking about it critically.
A lot of kids go through the same thing. You can't force an 18 yr old to change their mind, but you can be a catalyst for them to think. I had a professor for Criminal law that really challenged me to analyze what I thought to be true.
Honestly, Rush Limbaugh was another gatekeeper for me. I used to say the same stupid shit as my high school friends: "Limbaugh is a fat idiot." Of course that was until I listened to him. Those two men got the fire burning and I try like hell to read and research as much as I can with my free time.

Wasn't sure if you wanted a specific topic where my mind was changed, but I consider it a conversion to Liberty.


#9

One thing that I always find a little odd is when a person is actually wrong about something, yet will not change their stance. Basically they are refusing to learn.

Being wrong about something is not necessarily a bad thing in all areas. It can be an opportunity to learn and further advance your intelligence. If you have an idea that is shown to be an error and hold to your idea in the face of facts proving the error, you stay at the same place of intelligence. Maybe even regress in intelligence. If you acknowledge your error, receive the fact, you have increased your intelligence.

It's like failure. Failure can and does represent something negative to many people. Failure is not negative. Failure is learning what does not work.

In lifting weights hitting failure shows you where you are at in strength. So you work hard to accomplish that lift. What happens? You get stronger.

Bringing muscles to failure in a rep workout? Your muscles will grow.

Being wrong or failure is not a bad thing. It is an opportunity for growth.


#10

I think a big problem is government schools. Was anyone here taught aristotelian logic by their teachers?

I went out and learned about logical fallacies, how to construct a syllogism etc etc completely on my own.


#12

I disagree. The reason I disagree isn't because I think government schooling is great, a lot of it isn't (thought the schools my kids attend are actually really good, but they are an anomaly). The reason I disagree is because knowledge and wisdom takes effort. And if a person isn't willing to put forth effort to get themselves educated, how good or bad a school is doesn't matter.
My problem with this line of thought is that it feeds into the rather popular notion that everything needs to be spoon fed to us.
Many positions people hold are of the nature where, "I'll hold this default stance until somebody proves to me something different." In other words, rather than finding out for themselves they expect the information to be given to them, without them putting forth any effort to gather the information themselves.

One of my favorite past times is arguing with atheists. It's low hanging fruit for me because I have studied the arguments and counter arguments long and hard for years. Nevertheless, within the context of those arguments, I am constantly asked for a litany of information on one thing or another. Not a proof, per se, but literally being asked to provide basic information. One who has made a firm decision on such a matter, should already know this information. And I always have to explain it's not my job to teach them their own counter arguments. And if they present something I am not familiar with, I go and find out about it. I make the effort to learn about it and then decide if it's a valid point. I don't ask them to provide for me the information and then use it to counter argue.

My point being, learning takes effort and too many think it does not. That the reason they do not have all the facts is someone else's fault for not providing it on a silver platter.
That's why, when it comes to changing your mind, especially on big issues, you need to seek all the available information for yourself. It's not a school's job to provide you all the information. It's a schools job to provide you the tools and basis for educating yourself. They need to teach you how to read, write, and to do math and give you a basic skill set from which then you can grow.

As a side note, I feel myself cringing as I write some of this stuff, because I am speaking from personal experience, but it makes me feel like I am bragging about how great I am. I am not great, far from it. I don't know everything and I am not above or better than anyone. I don't know more than everybody else and I am not smarter than anybody else. I do feel I have some things figured out, but that's it.
So please forgive me if I sound like a braggart. I mean it matter-of-factly, not in the sense of 'look how great and well rounded I am, everyone applaud'.


#13

Guys, these are phenomenal posts. The stories you are telling are fantastic and inspiring. I really appreciate you understanding the heart of what the topic is and not take off on tangents.
If I replied to each one, I would basically be replying to all of them. I don't know how to tell each one of you how much I appreciate your responses, and the thought and care that has been put into each one. Consider this my group hug to you all...

:muscle:


#14

I agree with Aragorn, it seems to stem from fear. Fear of being considered a failure. Fear of losing ones self identity. Fear of being considered a fraud (by self and others).


#15

Whether it be due to chance and circumstance or my own actions, I hope I would be able to get my life on track as you did when faced with such adversity. The majority of people would not be able to, and that is a testament to your character.

Best regards


#16

I agree somewhat with usmcc and Aragon that due to ego, fear, and the lack of ability to critically look inwards is a large portion of it...but I also think it has to do with approach. Personally, I try to approach the debates with the purpose of learning more and uncovering something that I was unaware of. With such an approach, my mind isn't made up 100 % so there is still room to change if I learn something I didn't know about.

I think it goes back to a disagreement Push and Punisher had about when to stick to your beliefs and when to allow your beliefs to change. I have strong beliefs about things but don't pretend to know everything about everything, so there is always some wiggle room if a new argument is presented.

I agree with you Pat, if both sides approach the situation where they know everything and are only wanting to preach it, there is no point for two individuals involved. With that said, others can benefit from hearing the arguments and seeing which side they align with. In the case you presented, I'm sure most witnessed the one-sided argument and learned the details of that argument.


#17

I've changed my mind 3 or 4 times debating how much to share on this thread, if that is any consolation.


#18

Haha. I do that a lot


#19

Huge huge huge hit on the head. This is exactly what they do.

Exactly. And as I mentioned, this makes it a fundamentally powerless position to take. "It's not my fault, it's ......". Choosing to not use the skill set is just another form of choosing to give away your power as a person.


#20

You know it’s interesting–the more I read about successful people, the Bill Gates’s, the Richard Branson’s, the Ray Dalio’s, and all the rest…it really doesn’t matter what field they’re in. Business, research, whatever. Every single one of them holds a variation of the following: “I learn more from each one of my failures than I do from all of my successes”. Point being they had to move beyond that fear, or at least to fundamentally recognize that it isn’t a reflection of their fundamental identity.


#21

Good point Drew. Approach is everything. And I think allowing yourself to still own the role of "student" in any area really helps you stay open to change as well as keeping your ego in check. It's harder for most than it would seem haha.