By Michelle Martin, PhD, MSW
Have you ever had one of those conversations with someone where you try your best to point out the fallacies in his or her argument, and rather than acknowledging the facts, he or she responds with the unchallengeable statement: "I just know what I know, period!"? I sure have, and I have to say, these types of conversations are increasing in frequency, particularly on social media, and they're incredibly frustrating.
The big question I want to address in this blog post is why is it so hard to change someone's mind about something (particularly political issues), when facts exist to prove them wrong? And of course the other way is true as well. Why is it so difficult for us to change our own minds when others come at us with facts to prove us wrong?
There are many possible answers to this question, and I'm going to share a few of my thoughts on some reasons for our collective stubbornness, and seeming inability to compromise on important issues. My hope is that this post will also shed some light on how it's possible that there is such a gap in how people in this country are perceiving the exact same dynamics and set of events so differently.
Many people have commented on my "grace" in responding to people who disagree with me and aren't very nice about it. Well, I wasn't always so gracious—there was a time when I could be pretty snarky. I corrected people's grammar (how funny is that? #karma),
I bombarded people with facts, I interspersed my comments with "oh please!" or "typical!" and although I didn't engage too much in name-calling, I did use a fair amount of sarcasm (still do at times), and a minor epithet every now and then.
I'm certain I didn't change a single person's mind with that type of engagement. But what I did do is exhaust myself, make people feel bad about themselves, and drive an even deeper wedge into our already polarized society.
Dr. Michelle Martin is a social worker, policy specialist and Assistant Professor at California State University, Fullerton in the Department of Social Work, where she teaches social welfare policy, and researches dynamics related to immigrants, political asylum-seekers, refugees and other displaced populations.