When my friend told me she didn’t want to get the COVID vaccine because it was the government’s way of stifling the public’s energetic consciousness... my heart rate spiked.
My gut reaction was, “That’s a stupid idea.” and felt a strong urge to voice so. But, with the end goal of wanting her to be vaccinated, that response would have pushed her further away. So I considered the Contact Hypothesis.
The hypothesis suggests that positive interactions with members of opposite groups can reduce animosity between individuals. There are over 500 studies from the 1950s onwards that suggest interacting with a group outside of your own improves your perception of them.
I bit my tongue and said, “that’s interesting.” While having different views, we had several short and casual conversations about vaccines after that and she has since been vaccinated.
Kindness during divisive discussions is a powerful tool. And, luckily, it can achieve change at a mass scale.
Huddy and Yair’s 2020 study found that, when learning of a positive interaction between US Senators Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell, individuals rated members of the opposite political group more positively than the control group. They also rated them as less hostile towards their own party.
If you truly want to change someone’s mind, change the way they view you. When you’re the self-righteous friend, family member, or Twitter user, they’re not going to see your logical points, they’re going to see an asshole.