When we're trying to convince someone to change a mindset or behavior, it's tempting to lean on data. There's a bunch of reasons for this, including our own bias as the influencers. We believe in what we're saying, so data that supports our PoV makes us feel smart, validated and educated. All good things. Except for people who don't believe as strongly or at all in our perspective.

I've said it here a zillion times...

Data doesn't move people off emotional positions.

To get any traction at all, we need stories. Anecdotes and explanations, examples and definitions. These expositional elements create context and connection and engender empathy -- the building blocks of belief and change.

For examples and additional insights on this, check out my post on blending narrative and data. (It even includes a link to a handy slide deck!)

Make your position personal

One of the most common questions we get in when we're making a case for something is "How do you know?" Again, tempting to trot out some third-party evidence or fact you heard on the radio or TV, read somewhere or saw on social media. Let me know how that goes.

Instead, try this, try telling them a story about how you know. Here's what I mean. When somebody says they're on the fence about, say climate change, I share why I'm not. I'm not experiencing sea level rise here 160 miles from the beach, but I'm getting a lot more flooding from the creek in my front yard. I've lived her 18 years and have noticed we get more intense periods of rain or drought. So the creek gets really high more often, the waters recede and it stays dry longer. And that cycle is happening more frequently. Part of that is weather patterns (climate) and part of it is increased development upstream from me that puts a huge strain on the stormwater infrastructure and overflows into my creek.

Embrace the incremental

I don't necessarily think my anecdote will change anybody's mind, but I know this technique slows people down and makes them think a little. Because it's not some big-brained scientist they don't know quoting fancy data points. It's a person like them sharing a lived experience. It's relatable. And it might make them notice changes they've overlooked before.

That's the important part. We crave that lightbulb moment when people go, "Oh, now I get it!" and we feel successful and righteous and smart. But those don't happen all that often. Changing behaviors and beliefs in more of an incremental thing. And your personal stories and perspectives are small but mighty little nuggets of change.

Think about that the next time you're communicating with someone you want to influence.

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