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How Can You Convince Someone They’re Wrong?

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How Can You Convince Someone They’re Wrong?

No Stupid Questions Podcast

Freakonomics Radio,

5 min read
3 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

It can be hard to admit you’re wrong – unless the game rewards the most intellectually humble and open-minded person.

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It can be difficult to admit when you’re wrong, especially in a culture that puts so much value on being right. But what if the rules of the game changed to reward the most intellectually humble and open-minded person? Suddenly, admitting your mistakes seems attractive. In this episode of the No Stupid Questions podcast, hosts Angela Duckworth, a psychologist, and Steven Dubner, a journalist, navigate the illusion of human certainty and the sting of rejection. It wouldn’t be a mistake to adopt their sage advice.


To help someone realize that they’re wrong, start by recognizing the ways that they’re right.

Blaise Pascal, a 17th-century philosopher, once wrote, “When we wish to show another that he errs, we must notice from what side he views the matter. For on that side, it is usually true, and we must admit that truth to him, but reveal to him the side on which it is false. He is satisfied with that, for he sees that he was not mistaken and that he only failed to see all sides.” In other words, to change someone’s mind, first listen to his or her reasoning and acknowledge any truth you find there before contributing opposing knowledge from a different viewpoint.

Similarly, self-help guru Dale Carnegie suggests helping your opponents to feel heard before trying to change their mind, and psychologist Robert Cialdini encourages cultivating likability and reciprocity. Many view these techniques as manipulative. However, trying to persuade someone who clings to an opposing point of view may trigger an angry, aggressive response if you don’t approach the dialogue...

About the Podcast

No Stupid Questions is a podcast featuring conversations between journalist Stephen Dubner, co-author of Freakonomics, and psychologist Angela Duckworth, author of Grit.

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