Have you read my posts Naïve realism and How do you convince people? These posts show how people will tend to resist when they feel someone tries to convinces them (the reactance effect) and think they see things as they really are so their opponent in a debate must be biased or dishonest (naïve realism). If these findings of social psychology are true what does this mean for how to communicate with other people who have different views. One writer who had some ideas about this is Dale Carnegie. His book How To Win Friends and Influence People, which was first published in 1936 and which sold millions of copies (which made it the one of the first self-help best sellers) contains these quotes on this topic:
- Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes him strive to justify himself. Criticism is dangerous because it wounds a person's precious pride, hurts his sense of importance and arouses resentment.
- Let's realize that the person we are going to correct and condemn will probably justify himself or herself and condemn us in return; or, like the gentle Taft, will say: "I don't see how I could have done any differently from what I have.
- Instead of condemning people let's try to figure out why they do what they do. That's a lot more profitable and intriguing than criticism; and it breeds sympathy, tolerance and kindness. To know all is to forgive all.
- You can't win an argument. You can't because if you lose it, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it. Why? Well, suppose you triumph over the other man and shoot his argument full of holes and prove that he is non compos mentis. Then what? you will feel fine. But what about him? You have made him feel inferior. You have hurt his pride. He will resent your triumph. And - A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still.
- You may be tempted to interrupt. But don't. It is dangerous. They won't pay attention to you while they still have a lot of ideas of their own crying for expression.
- Remember that other people may be totally wrong. But they don't think so. Don't condemn them. Any fool can do that. Try to understand them. Only wise, tolerant, exceptional people even try to do that.