Changing Minds and Preaching to the Converted

Creating change is about shifting people’s perceptions. The opposed and the indifferent will not engage in a 180 degree philosophical turnaround on their own. That’s why we develop strategic communication plans — to bring people to our side by appealing to our shared values.

At times, however, would-be change agents spend inordinate amounts of time seemingly trying to persuade the already persuaded. It’s pretty easy to follow only people with whom you agree on social media, visit only websites that share your worldview, and have conversations only with likeminded people.

I have written previously on themes related to changing people’s minds. Here are links to three of those posts:

Having made the point about the primacy of changing hearts and minds, it is important to recognize that there is still a place for “preaching to the converted.” Political strategists refer to it as energizing the base.

G.K. Chesterton once said, “I believe in preaching to the converted; for I have generally found that the converted do not understand their own religion.” People often know in their gut why something needs to change, but they sometimes lack the words to effectively refute opposing viewpoints.

As author and activist Dan Savage put it, “Preaching to the choir actually arms the choir with arguments and elevates the choir’s discourse. There’s a reason the right does it and does it well and triumphs.”

This doesn’t mean that you give your allies boilerplate responses to every possible question they may run into. When you do that you risk marginalizing critical diversity of voices in your coalition. Instead, give them the frameworks, filters, and value propositions that can counter a variety of objections.

More on this later.