STOP PUSHING YOUR POINTWhen trying to change minds, organizations or even the world, we often default to a particular approach: pushing. Boss not listening to that new idea? Send them another PowerPoint deck. Client isn’t buying the pitch? Remind them of all the benefits. When people are asked how they’ve tried to change someone’s mind, my own research finds that the overwhelming majority of the answers focus on some version of pushing.The intuition behind this approach comes from physics. If you’re trying to move a chair, for example, pushing usually works. Push it in one direction and it tends to go that way. Unfortunately, people and organizations aren’t like chairs; they often push back.CATALYSTS CAUSE CHANGEIt helps to look to chemistry, where there’s a proven way to make change happen fast: Add a catalyst. Catalysts convert air into fertilizer and petroleum into bike helmets. But most intriguing is the way they generate change. Instead of adding heat or pressure, they provide an alternate route, reducing the amount of energy required for reactions to occur. Rather than pushing, they remove barriers.FIND THE HIDDEN OBSTACLESAgain and again, the same approaches emerged. Instead of giving people more facts, figures or reasons, smart change agents find the hidden obstacles preventing change and mitigate them. Instead of asking what might convince someone to change, catalysts start with more basic questions: Why haven’t they changed already? What’s stopping them?DON'T WE ALL HAVE CONTROL ISSUES?People like to feel like they’re in control—in the drivers’ seat. When we try to get them to do something, they feel disempowered. Rather than feeling like they made the choice, they feel like we made it for them. So they say no or do something else, even when they might have originally been happy to go along. Psychologists call this negative response “reactance.” Decades of consumer behavior research shows that people have an innate anti-persuasion radar. They’re constantly scanning the environment for attempts to influence them, and when they detect one, they deploy a set of countermeasures.
It’s not about pushing harder or exerting more energy. It’s about reducing barriers to action. Once you understand that, you can change anything.