Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

Facts Don’t Matter

School debates taught us that to change someone’s mind, all you have to do is have a better argument. But that’s only occasionally true. For instance, do you know the James Bond movie Goldfinger?

The villain of that film covered a woman in liquid gold so that she died through ‘skin asphyxiation’. Do you think that’s a plausible way to die in real life?

Let me spoil your fun, it’s impossible. You don’t choke if all your pores are filled up with paint. It’s nothing but fun Hollywood fiction.

Here’s the point: you probably bought my answer without question. After all, you have no stake in the outcome. The odds you care about random movie trivia is small.

But what about topics you do care about, are you as open to taking on another person’s views then?

Science says no.

Take climate change.

With over five decades of strong evidence to back it up, people will easily push all that aside after seeing one snowy winter day.

How do people feel so comfortable rejecting the facts?

Because to many, academic papers and studies are too abstract to feel right. To them, a paper is just a collection of expensive words, confusing graphs and other sciency mumbo jumbo.

So although climate scientists have the better argument, they don’t have the power to change the minds of people who don’t believe or care about science.

What do you do when facts don’t matter?

You tell stories.

Take the Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters. They’ve been successfully changing the minds of millions of people around the globe using nothing but story and drama. Sure, they run experiments, but none good enough to be turned into an academic paper. 

What makes people listen to shows like Mythbusters isn’t math and data, but entertainment in the shape of two friendly faces who can make science look cool. 

Now back to you. 

If you find yourself locked in a heated discussion with someone who doesn’t care about the facts, don’t present them with more data. Instead, tell a compelling story.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach