Altering another person’s perspective is very difficult when it is attached to their deeply held values or beliefs. While most intelligent people are aware of this reality, very few of them understand WHY it’s so difficult. It’s generally viewed as a fact as elementary as the sky being blue. Yet, continuing with this analogy, most people don’t understand exactly why the sky appears to be blue instead of being any other color of the rainbow. The purpose of this brief message is to summarize and deconstruct the nature of a person’s perspective in the interest of showing you how to influence it.
Picture a spider web that takes up an entire room with thousands of threads and a small leaf somewhere inside of it. Successfully altering a person’s perspective of any given idea, concept, or event is the equivalent of moving the leaf from one location within the web to another without damaging a single thread. Each directly connected thread is a value that relates to the idea, concept, or event (leaf) somehow. The position and location of the leaf is basically one’s perspective. Compared to how many threads that are in the spider web, a very small number of threads are directly attached to the leaf. But the leaf would not be suspended where it is without the thousands of other indirectly attached threads to hold it up. So the leaf is an idea, event, or concept, each thread is a personal value, the entire web makes up a person’s value system, and the position of a leaf within that web is the person’s perspective on it. Using this analogy, changing a person’s perspective is essentially an act of moving the leaf (idea, concept, or event) from one part of the web/value system to another, which alters their perception of it. A “disagreement” between two people is basically the equivalent of the same leaf (idea, concept, or event) being located in a different part of their respective webs (value systems). In other words, if you were to hold each person’s web side by side, the same exact leaf (idea, concept, or event) would be located in a very different place within each person’s web (value system). The greater the distance between the respective leaf locations, the more the two people disagree.
When you are trying to “change someone’s mind” about something, you are essentially trying to detach the leaf (idea, concept, or event) from the threads (values) that it’s attached to and either allowing it to stay unattached (which results in a neutral or indifferent response), or moving it and attaching it to a value that is in alignment with your perspective (which results in a person agreeing with you). Think religion, politics, drugs, abortion…these are leaves that are so deep in a person’s web/value system that it either takes a major event (think hurricane) to shake these leaves loose (this is experienced as disillusionment) or a long and difficult process to move. We’ve all seen someone disillusioned. They feel lost, confused, and disoriented. They often say things like, “I don’t know what anything means anymore”. This is because thousands of ideas, concepts, or events (leaves) are unattached to their web and are basically “on the floor” in this analogy. And when an idea, concept, or event is unattached to a person’s value system, it literally has no meaning. It’s entirely neutral. An event like this “shakes their whole world”, which is their entire web/value system. To “put their world back together again”, they have to put each leaf back in the web, which once again determines their perspective on it. This is downright revolutionary because a person gets to choose where all of these loose leaves go, which by extension means that they get to determine what all of these ideas, concepts, and events (leaves) mean. This is why life “tragedies” are in truth great blessings.
A person is as sensitive as a spider to every single thread within their web/value system. As a result, successfully altering a person’s perspective of an idea, concept, or event (moving a leaf) is a delicate process that can be as difficult as moving a leaf within an enormous spider web without agitating (pushing against) their thousands of values along the way. And think about it…would you be able to just grab the leaf directly if it’s suspended far into the web? Absolutely not. You have to address the threads/values that are as closely connected to the leaf as you can “see” and, one by one, remove the entangled idea, concept, or event (leaf) from all of the threads surrounding it. Clearly, this is a delicate process that has to be approached with patience and great sensitivity if you’re going to have any chance at success. This is why being “right” is virtually useless because all that being “right” means is that the leaf (idea, concept, or event in question) that you’re trying to move within someone else’s web/value system is located in a place within your web/value system that you think is ideal. Is it the ideal place? That depends on the circumstance, right? The only place that answer leads is to self righteousness and arrogance.
Regardless of how inefficient, irrational, or negative a perspective of any idea, concept, or event may be (the location of a leaf), it’s still attached and supported in thousands of different ways to the value system in a person’s mind. Proceeding without enough sensitivity, precision, and patience results in your audience’s mental and emotional defense mechanisms being triggered. In other words, when you’re trying to persuade someone to adopt your perspective, they’ll get defensive. Regardless of circumstance or reason, the human mind will protect its web/value system from drastic and clumsy alteration because the overall location of every leaf within its web/value system is the way a person perceives everything in their world along with their place within it. It is the sum of their moral and personal identity.
Keep all of this in mind the next time you enter a debate or try to change someone’s mind about a topic that they feel strongly about. Unless you are prepared and equipped to perform metaphysical surgery on their value system with patience, precision, and respect, you are doing nothing more than self righteously demanding that they perform this surgery themselves purely because you think the leaf you’re looking at is located in the “wrong place”. If you truly want to inspire a person to do this on their own, the secret is to show them where the leaf (idea, concept, or event) you are looking at is located within your own web/value system and show them acceptance, love, and respect.
If you are a living example of someone who possesses the qualities they would like to have, AND you inspire the respect and loyalty in others that that they want to inspire as well, AND you have achieved mastery in the areas of life in which they want to achieve mastery as well, then they will naturally come to YOU and ask, “Will you show me how to think, how to feel, what to value, and how to be?” At that point, they are opening their mind and heart to your patient and loving touch. They know that you will only alter their values in ways that will benefit them and NOT your personal idea of who they should be. They will give you all of the time you need to change their value system for them, all the while trusting that you are doing so purely in their best interest and out of the goodness of your heart.
By: Michael Verdun