Tag Archive for: Einstein

Persuading Einstein and Members of AARP

I just finished Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Issacson. Excellent book!
Issacson also wrote another very interesting biography I read a few years ago, Steve Jobs. His book on Einstein was so well
written and portrayed Einstein in such a way that I was sad at the end to read
about his death because I felt like I was just getting to know him.
We all have notions of Einstein from school,
quotes we’ve read, movies we’ve seen and various other sources. Some of what we
learned was true and much was fairy tale or at least exaggeration. What
fascinated me about Einstein was how much of a rebel he was in his youth and
how much he was willing to change as he got older when the facts warranted
As we get older, change gets harder. In some
sense we’ve honed what works for us and those patterns or habits – which
include speech and thought – are no exception. We think what we think and do
what we do because we believe it’s the right way or the best way given the
situation. Dale Carnegie understood this and that’s why one of his tips from How to Win Friends and Influence People
encourages us to “show respect for the other person’s opinion and never say, ‘You’re
wrong.’” Never forget, right or wrong, people have reasons for what they do.
Beyond being stereotyped as “set in their
ways” is there any proof that older people are more difficult to persuade?
Actually there is. A study mentioned in Robert Cialdini’s Influence Science and Practice noted, “in a follow-up study
employing subjects from ages 18 to 80, we found that preference for consistency
increased with the years and that, once beyond the age of 50, our subjects
displayed the strongest inclination of all to remain consistent with their
earlier commitments (Brown, Asher, & Cialdini, 2005).”
So as we age it’s natural to cling tightly to
closely held beliefs, attitudes, values, and ways of doing things. As most of
you reading this know, it can be darn hard to change someone’s mind, especially
as they grow older.
So what’s this have to do with our friend Albert
Einstein? On one hand he seemed to cling stubbornly to his view of the universe
and dismissed some newer science including quantum mechanics. Without going
into detail on either issue, suffice it to say that despite lots of data on
quantum mechanics, there were a few important questions Einstein could not
reconcile in his head. Had someone been able to help him do that he might have
changed his mind and abandoned his search for a unified theory.
Being an analytic personality, Einstein would
naturally cling to his beliefs because he so thoroughly thought them through.
You’d need data to convince him AND you’d need to do so at the points that were
of most concern to him. No scientist could convince him that we can never truly
tell a particle’s exact position and momentum (a tenant of quantum mechanics).
Scientists believe we can only guess at those two things but Einstein could not
reconcile that in his mind so he held to his earlier beliefs about the universe.
On the flip side there was something very dear
to Einstein’s heart that he eventually did change his mind about. He was an
ardent pacifist in his younger days and believed if people would refuse
military service there would never be a need for military action by nations.
His view on this was shaped by the horror of World War I and the unparalleled
destruction it brought on the world at that time.
Through the early 1930s he held onto this
view. However, with the rise of Hitler and the Nazis in Germany he began to
re-examine that view. While he never embraced war, he came to believe people
should enlist to defend freedom. He was also instrumental in getting President
Roosevelt to start exploring nuclear technology and was against unilateral
disarmament towards the end of his life because of the imbalance of power it
would cause.
Why did he change? He was confronted with
facts and the reality was the stakes were too high to be wrong.
As you attempt to persuade people you’d do well to consider where they are in their life cycle. Teenagers and younger people have not developed the same groove older people have. It’s easier for them to experiment and quite often there is much less at stake for them in terms of loss should they make a mistake.
However, as people get older and
responsibilities increase, scarcity – the fear of loss –
also plays into the equation too. Changing jobs when you have a family or child
getting ready for college changes the equation for many people. The stakes are
much higher for a wrong decision.
Helping minimize fear of loss becomes very important,
as does the ability to tie your request to consistency – what someone has
said or done in the past, what they hold as far as values and beliefs. And when
you try to tie into consistency make sure there’s not some other point that’s
most important for the other person otherwise you’ll hear, “Yes, but…” That was
Einstein’s retort to the physicists who pushed quantum mechanics.
As is the case with sales, persuasion comes
down to knowing your audience and their “hot buttons.” Once you know those two
things, crafting you argument becomes much, much easier.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
Cialdini “Influence”
 Would you like to learn more about
influence from the experts? Check out the Cialdini “Influence” Series featuring Cialdini
Method Certified Trainers from around the world.