How do you explain someone’s irrational behavior or failure to deal with reality? Watch this week’s (video) blog to find out.
Your choice: Watch the video or read the transcript below.
Have you ever been in a situation where you’re attempting to make a decision with someone else – maybe in a group or just between the two of you – and the other person is clinging to outdated information, or worse yet, refusing to acknowledge the veracity or relevance of new information – information that would make a significant difference in the decision you are working toward?
Maybe it is a new sales lead management system that’s going to replace a series of spreadsheets. And a colleague is adamant that the current system works just fine, the new system is an unnecessary expense and so forth.
When people ignore or deny information that conflicts with their existing beliefs, they are experiencing cognitive dissonance.
Their brain is grappling with the difference between the new information and what they believe to be true. When there is a gap, especially a sizable gap, between new evidence and what someone deeply believes, it is uncomfortable . . . and the brain seeks to make that difference go away. This can produce counter-productive behavior, and sometimes even irrational and bizarre behavior. Denial, excuse making, failure to see the obvious.
So what do you do when someone is exhibiting these behaviors? How do you get them to see the new information as valid, and integrate it with their existing knowledge base?
Start by stating what they do believe – at least to the best of your ability. Something like this: “If I understand you correctly, the sales process we’re using now works just fine.” Starting from their baseline makes them feel understood, it validates their position.
Next, point out a problem with the current state, one that directly impacts them. “With our current system, senior leaders have to rely on self-reported data when determining who has exceeded their sales quotas.”
Get agreement to the problem and then point out how that specifically impacts them. “You and I both know that others have received bonuses when they shouldn’t have.”
And then, make a clear link to how the new information, or system in this case, can solve the problem. Finally, if at all possible, give them some time to think about it. Suggest you meet again in a few days and regroup.
When cognitive dissonance runs deep, it will take a bit of time and patience to integrate the new information into their reality.
So the next time you run into erratic, unreasonable or bizarre behavior from someone, take a moment to consider whether there is a significant difference between new information and their existing belief structure. If so, you’re dealing with cognitive dissonance. Use the tips presented in this video, and a dose of patience, to reduce the gap between their beliefs and the new information, so you can make a decision that’s in the best interests of all, and that everyone can buy into.
That’s today’s video blog. I’m Janel Anderson with Working Conversations.