Social Question

harple's avatar

What methods might work to get through to someone who is set on only hearing what they want to hear?

Asked by harple (10446points) January 20th, 2012

When someone is only taking the part of your words that suits them, what methods can you apply that might make them see the other side, the side they don’t want to hear?

I’m specifically thinking of when someone reveals to you that they are in a dangerous situation, but then they consistenly latch on to anything you say that allows them to confirm their own thoughts that it’s okay to stay in that situation.

Is there anything you can do in that situation, or do you have to sit back and watch for the wreckage? How long do you try for? Do you try forever, because if they are in danger then to ever stop trying is unforgivable? Or do you have to say, “I have tried my best, on your own head be it”?

I’m really looking for specific methods that might help though, apart from talking to them. Eg – showing them examples of other people who have been in the same situation…

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11 Answers

SQUEEKY2's avatar

A swift kick in the Butt,is all these people seem to understand.

GrayTax's avatar

Solid facts and irrefutable logic? That tends to work for me most times, though I do agree with @SQUEEKY2; some people just won’t listen…

JLeslie's avatar

Sometimes I try to have them exolain to me their logic. Maybe they will see the inconsistancy themselves.

Mostly I think it is impossible though. If they want to believe you are wrong, or a piece of crap, or whatever reason they don’t value your opinion at that moment, pretty much anything you say will be twisted.

zenvelo's avatar

Seems to happen a lot on Fluther, especially with younger people who are in abusive relationships and want community approval on staying with an abuser. They pretty much ignore the healthy advice people give them.

When I am asked for my opinion in that kind of situation, I am polite but blunt, and don’t give them any out. After that I cannot do anything, and have to let them go, but tell them they can always talk to me again if they are willing to listen.

marinelife's avatar

If someone is really set on not hearing you, then they won’t. Don’t break your head on that rock.

Sometimes you can try by getting them to look at the situation as if someone they cared about was in it. What would they do or feel about getting that person out of the situation. Them why won’t they save themselves?

Hain_roo's avatar

Having been that person years ago, I’m afraid there’s not much you can do. They have blinders on. It’s tragic. You want to grab them and pull them out of harms way, but you can’t. :(
...Looking back, I wish so badly I could have seen my situation for what it was and listened to friends and family.

thorninmud's avatar

Here is a very good article on exactly this subject and, frankly, it doesn’t hold out much hope. The upshot is that beliefs are held on an emotional level, not an intellectual one. Because of this, evidence and data are twisted to support existing views. Throwing contrary evidence and data at someone with a strongly held emotional bias will only entrench them in their position.

The only approach that stands a chance is to approach the matter in a way that doesn’t trigger the emotional response. A study quoted in the article used this example: US conservatives are disinclined to hear any evidence of climate change; they strongly support industry and see global warming as something concocted by environmentalists masquerading as scientists in order to damage industry. Conservatives were presented with two (contrived) newspaper headlines: “Scientific Panel Recommends Anti-Pollution Solution to Global Warming”, and “Scientific Panel Recommends Nuclear Solution to Global Warming”. The first appears to be yet another attack on industry, and so it triggered an emotional backlash against. The second appears to offer a perspective that isn’t obviously linked to traditional environmentalist values and includes rather than attacks industry. Conservatives were more receptive to information presented in this way.

rebbel's avatar

Say: “Oh, by the way, yesterday when I came home, I walked in on my girlfriend, our neighbor and your sister having a mutual masturbation session…....”, to grasp his/her attention.
From there you can say that since he/she is all ears now, how about paying attention to what you are telling him/her always from now on.

wundayatta's avatar

I believe that what @thorninmud said is true. Most beliefs are held in an emotional fashion. Data doesn’t help too much on a personal level. On a policy level, things are different, but we are speaking at a personal level.

What I try to do is to empathize. I try to show a person that I understand what it is like to be in their shoes and I truly understand the difficulty of their situation. I try to find a story from my own personal life that demonstrates that I really do understand and I really have been there. If I haven’t really been there, I acknowledge that so I can show them I am not pretending to be someone I’m not, but I have been close enough that what I have to say makes sense.

Then, understanding their difficulty, I try to see if I can offer anything that will realistically help them out. In today’s example of a woman who is in an abusive relationship, I am acutely aware that saying they should get out of it won’t help. I try to talk about the relationship patterns. I spoke about why these things happen (low self-esteem) and why they are difficult to break out of (incredible need to be loved and true believe that this is probably the only chance we’ll have and if it doesn’t work, I’ll get so depressed I’ll kill myself).

I am torn about saying these things. For one thing, I think people will think I exaggerate and I’ll look like a shill or something. I also feel like I might look foolish (can you believe I care about that?) in making it seem like the stakes are so high. I didn’t want to say that abuse can lead to death because while that is true, it is so easy to discount that the rest of your advice will get lost, too.

On the other hand, when we are talking about love and self-esteem and depression, we really are getting to feelings that feel life or death to many people. I have definitely been there.

I then feel I have to acknowledge that change is really, really hard. I understand if you can’t kick the hard stuff. I understand if you don’t see how you can live without your lover who gave you a concussion. I understand because I almost died when I felt unlovable. I was trying to imagine jumping out my window every single day. I couldn’t quite do it, obviously. But in the end, it was about love and feeling unloved and unlovable and undeserving of even the tiniest mote of love.

I don’t know if this helps people the way I want it to help them. It does make people feel understood. I get pms about that all the time. I see it in responses publicly, too. Whether they change, though, I don’t know. If they do change, it takes a long, long time. But I do believe I see change. Maybe I’m fooling myself. Hard to tell. But I have a friend who does seem to be pushing themselves to cut back on the alcohol. I don’t ask how it’s going. But I am there for them whenever they need me.

And I will be here, too, for anyone who asks. I will tell people what I think. I will say what I think is best, but I am not going to try to shame them. Shame is stupid and ineffective, I believe. I will let them know that I think what they are trying to do is really hard and there is no shame in failing. Not from me.

I think not feeling shame is crucial because shame is counter-affective. It is for me and many people I know. I think it can work for many people, but for those of us with certain psychological challenges, it makes our chances of success go down. This is because we totally believe we are horrible people already. Then, when we try and fail to change, we believe we are even worse, and that we deserve more punishment. This means we should fail even more, so people will stop treating us like humans and we can end up in some gutter where we belong, and people can spit and defecate on us.

The psychology of desperation is very tricky. It is hard to believe you can ever get better or ever fix yourself. It is important, I think, to see it as a process, and to realize there is constant learning involved, even if it looks like you are making the same mistake over and over. Acknowledging that you are weak is not the same as giving up. Just the opposite. It helps you hang in there even though you keep on fucking up, or even giving up.

In fact, giving up can be enormously beneficial. Realizing you can’t control your life and this particular situation in life can be enormously freeing. It enables you to stop beating yourself up. Surprising how we become allies with what hurts us, trying to double the pain out of shame. But if we eliminate the shame, then it becomes safe to give up. To stop fighting.

And when you stop fighting, you take away all the energy you have been putting into your enemy. You stop aiding and abetting your enemy. Suddenly, your enemy loses half it’s power. Suddenly, it doesn’t hurt nearly as much. Suddenly, you have so much more energy and power than you did before.

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as just proclaiming that you give up. You have to actually give up, and that is a struggle to get to that point. One that none of us can help anyone else get to. All we can do is open the possibility, suggest some ideas, and then trust that they will follow the path when they are ready.

So no pressure on anyone. Open doors, yes. Don’t try to push anyone through. It does not good. People walk themselves through or they don’t go through.

harple's avatar

Thank you all – really insightful answers. :-)

YARNLADY's avatar

Try to make them do all the talking. Just repeat what they say, or have them repeat what you say.

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