Ever wondered why some people will easily agree with you while others don’t? It can be frustrating when trying to influence someone to your way of thinking, at work or at home.

The sheer volume of information each of us processes in a day means we use a variety of mental shortcuts to ease the cognitive load. One of these is known as ‘motivated skepticism’. With it, we need very little supporting evidence to arrive at conclusions we want to reach but a great deal of opposite information if our mind is going to be changed. We are highly skeptical of any anything that does not agree with our initial preferences.

You don’t like Jack’s management style. He is pushy and demonstrative. So, out of frustration, you whine to Jane over the coffeepot. But, she is not so quick to agree with your complaints. You see, her experiences with Jack have always been good.

To win her over to your side, you will need to provide her with far more evidence.

Because of motivated skepticism, Jane’s pre-existing beliefs about Jack mean she is more likely to reject information that doesn’t agree with her experiences. She will quickly filter out that which goes against what she expects or knows.

If she had had some difficult encounters with Jack, then she would probably quickly agree as your comments would be consistent to her experiences.

To ease demands on our mental capacity, we filter, reject, agree or ignore incoming information very quickly. Understanding this helps you to communicate with those around you.

Action – To see how this works for yourself, next time you instantly disagree with what someone says, check your own beliefs on the issue. And ask yourself how much more evidence the other person would need to give you to swing you over to their side.

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