“It’s easier to fool people than to convince them they have been fooled.” Isn’t that a GREAT line? It was part of the #swipefile, of course, and comes from a (tragically sold out) print by the “Not Real Banksy,” who may actually be the real Banksy. (Thanks to amazing body language expert and all-around good human Mark Bowden for the find.)
It’s one of those phrases you just know is true, right? I mean, who of us hasn’t had a situation where we’ve tried to convince someone that what they thought was true wasn’t true at all?
I’m guessing it didn’t go so well.
It’s something we run into all the time in our daily lives. That third cousin once removed on Facebook who holds an opinion, backed by “facts,” that you can’t possibly understand – or agree with. That close friend who is convinced [insert fad diet or exercise regimen here] is THE BEST – and only – way to [accomplish whatever that fad is supposed to do].
This is particularly frustrating when you have a big idea (or product or service) that competes with something people are already doing. You think what they’re doing is cuckoo bananas and doesn’t make any sense. Why don’t they do things your way? I mean you clearly have a better answer.
I mean, you’re right. You know so.
But then again, they’re right. And they know so, too.
What’s a message maker to do? How are you supposed to make something make sense to them when they don’t make any sense to you? Well, my friend, I’m glad you asked! Allow me to present the Immutable Laws of Making Things Make Sense:
Law #1: Everything must make sense.
Law #2: People are smart, capable, and good.
Now, you’re likely saying, “Tamsen, have you succumbed to the fumes of the inveterate pot smoker who lives below you? You know, because Law #1 doesn’t make sense! I mean, I already told you their view doesn’t make sense! Not to mention I know some not-smart, not-capable, not-good people, so Law #2 is clearly wrong, too. Perhaps that midnight toker did more damage than you thought….”
But here’s the thing: People always act in a way that makes sense to them. That doesn’t mean that it was rational (at least to someone else). No, we decide, we act, based on emotion or instinct most of the time. But that emotion and instinct are based on patterns of thought and behavior that someone has accrued over time. So what they end up doing, however nutso it seems to you, makes complete sense to them. In fact, they can explain why it makes sense (even if you don’t agree and see it as ridiculous rationalization and them as a raging hypocrite).
Which brings us to Law #2. Because the underlying motivator of how they make things make sense is to make themselves look, or rather feel, that they are smart, capable, and good. They did something that ticked you off? Well, that wasn’t their intention… because they’re a good person… they wouldn’t be jackass on purpose. And yes, there are the folks who are jackasses on purpose… but that’s because it (a) makes sense to them and (b) because, for some reason, being a jackass is something they associate with being (or makes them feel) smart, capable, and good.
This is why it’s so hard to “convince someone they’ve been fooled.” They’ve made something make sense to themselves (Law #1) so they continue to be – or be seen as – smart, capable, and good (Law #2).
While this may seem like some serious Inception-level stuff, knowing these two laws is everything when it comes to crafting the case for your idea. People will not act on something that violates those two (and even if they do, they will not sustain that action over time… because that wouldn’t make sense… because they are smart, capable, and good).
Which means there’s a third law:
Law #3: Do not violate laws 1 and 2.
That third law means you really can’t convince someone they’ve been fooled. Or rather, you can’t convince them. Only they can. Because if you’re right, that would make them wrong. And that violates Law #2, and we’re back to game over.
This is why it’s so key to anchor your messages in something – a Goal – people already want. It validates them. (“You’re lost in the forest and want to find a way out? I might be able to help…)
It’s also why you need to acknowledge, and include, what they’re already doing, even if it’s not working right now. (“Ah. I see. You’re looking at the trees. That’s okay. It makes sense. The forest is made of trees, and maybe one of them has a sign on it. But look! If you look at two trees, there’s a space between them….”)
See how doing that again validates their current tree-focused approach (Law #2) while introducing a new perspective? And how, because it’s something they can easily see, that new perspective also makes sense (Law #1)?
To follow you out of the woods, though, they have to hear one more thing: why that new perspective makes more sense than their current one if they want to want to get un-lost. And yes, you still have to do that without violating any of the Laws. How? You cement that new perspective with something they already believe – or would readily agree – is true. (“We can only move through the spaces….”)
Then, and only then, will the Change you’re advocating for make sense. (“Let’s look for the spaces that create a path between the trees….”)
Even better? It just might make them feel even smarter, capabler, and gooder. (Don’t worry, I’m a Webster. I can make words.)
Speaking of which, a word of warning here: This may not always work, or work right away (especially with that third cousin once removed). But, because of the Laws, it is the only way it will work when it does. It’s the only way to tell someone something they can’t unhear. It also won’t work if any of what you say isn’t, in fact, true. Because then you’re just trading one fooling for another. Maybe you’re okay with that. I’m not.
No, the reason I like this approach (which, ultimately, is the Red Thread® I talk about so often), is that it doesn’t even convince someone they’ve been “fooled.” It allows them to see – and if they choose, take – a path towards being more of the smart, capable, and good person they want to be… because, you know, it just makes sense.People always act in a way that makes sense to them. Click To Tweet
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