What evidence would change your mind?

I was listening to Shane Parrish interview Adam Grant on his knowledge project podcast last week.

Adam was speaking of the loss of rationality in many public domains. Politics, gender, science, global warming, race relations… are all domains where it has become dangerous to ask questions or engage with open curiosity.

As Adam was speaking about this he gave us a question “what evidence would change your mind?”

If I can’t answer this question, it is possible that I have become too emotionally attached to my position.

I asked myself: what beliefs do I hold to such a degree that no evidence would change my mind?

It is not a bad thing to hold strong beliefs… I believe it it a vital ability to develop faith in the universe. I decided to believe that the universe is a good place. I decided to believe that people are trustworthy. These are decisions of a stance I take towards the world.

The problem comes when I pretend to be rational when my belief really doesn’t come from reason. You could prove to me that people aren’t trustworthy and I still would prefer to act towards the world as if people are trustworthy. I don’t really care about the evidence. As long as I recognize this as a “stance towards the world” rather than an evidence-based rational decision, I will be ok. However if I want to convince others, it’s important to realize on what basis I hold the belief.

Adam Grant on Advice

Adam shared a story of someone asking him for advice… and as soon as Adam started sharing his opinion he realized that the other person didn’t want to hear it. Since those early days of his career, Adam has become much more careful in offering his opinion.

When someone comes to Adam for advice:

First: Ask them for their Pros & Cons? Their Risks & Rewards? Get their perspective on what is important and what challenges they see. Get this first.

Next: Ask “Why did you come see me?”

Did they really come for Validation? Or Approval? Or are they really open to have you test their thinking?

Be careful about offering help when the other is not open to another perspective.

Did you come to visit this blog to challenge your thinking? Or to confirm your existing beliefs? 😉

Author: Conor Neill

Hi, I’m Conor Neill, an Entrepreneur and Teacher at IESE Business School. I speak about Moving People to Action. View all posts by Conor Neill