How to Have Impossible Conversations

Somehow didn't find it an easy read. The general gist seems to be that changing peoples minds is hard and the goal should be just to instill doubt so they slowly change their minds


(1) Avoid delivering facts. Peoples beliefs are tied to their social identity. So delivering facts gives them a reason seek out arguments and counter-facts to deny your beliefs. The beliefs than will become more entrenched, especially if they now think they have reasoned their counter-arguments. I'm mixed on how real this effect is.

(2) Figure out under what conditions they would change their minds. If (a) They will never change their mind. Try giving hypotheticals where they might change their mind. If they don't accept those move on to questioning their social identity. Probably they have a "belief in belief" effect. I believe in God because that makes me a good person. So I won't stop believing in God just because of evidence (b) They answer they'll change their mind under crazy standards of evidence. I'll stop believing in the resurrection of Jesus if you show me the bones of Christ. Often this is accompanied by training of pre-canned arguments. Try i. Offering more reasonable criteria ii. Asking for what criteria someone else should use (what criteria should I as a Jew use vs you as a Christian) iii. Ask what's the value of that belief, possibly with a close substitute. What would the value be for a Budhist in believing in Budha (c) If they say it can be disconfirmed switch to exploring if their criteria for being disconfirmed is true or not. Not really sure if now is the time to introduce facts. If so, do so lightly. If someone says they'll stop believing in defunding the police if it failed. Say "I read it did in the NY Times Magazine that when the police were defunded in Baltimore x happened" and see how they respond.

(3) If someone is stuck needing unreasonable evidence to disconfirm their beliefs switch to epsistomogical/moral questions to get them to revise their standard of evidence for changing beliefs (a) Epistomology: what are other beliefs you're not willing to change (b) Moral questions. How is it a virtue not to change this belief? Are there examples of people who don't hold this belief who are good?
(c) Try changing the timeframe. Ask them if they changed their minds on beliefs 10 years ago vs today (i) If they said yes then ask them why they think this won't be a belief they'd possibly revisit (ii) If no then give up

(4) The conversation style can be inverted (what they call synthesis). You can present an idea. Then ask for feedback. Honestly, this is the style I enjoy with my friends and my preferred style. In general I have a predefined framework for thinking about the pros/cons of ideas (marginal cost vs marginal benefit). And its painful to have to ask for other people to give frameworks. At best they look like "your budget is a reflection of your values"


(1) Altercasting. Case your conversation partner into an alternate role. "As a person who values reasonable evidence how would you think about x"

(2) Asking them to put numbers about statements. This lets you judge incremental impacts on their beliefs (even if you don't change their mind moving from a 9 to 8 confidence in the need for a wealth tax is a huge move). And it also helps introduce perspective. If they say "America is a white suprmacist patriarchy" and you say "that's an exeggeration" the conversation gets stuck. Instead ask if Aparthaid South Africa was a 9 on that scale where would you place America. Or if they say everyone should be X ask them to rate the importance of X to say climate change