A Guide to Communicating in a Way that Changes Minds – from Equally Ours

A line I heard at the Fairsay Campaigning Forum this year really resonated with me: (paraphrasing) “we in the NGO sector get annoyed about bad science all the time (such as climate deniers), yet we constantly ignore the science of behavourial psychology.‘  This is so, so true. We’ve learned from Brexit and Trump that repeating facts and data doesn’t work, and that dry appeals to common sense don’t work either. Yet so many organisations have not yet updated their approach to talking about their issue.

Nicky Hawkins of Equally Ours spoke about this issue at the Campaigning Forum, and it’s really worth checking out the work that they’re doing.  They have done in-depth research on what kind of messaging actually works, to shift positions and change minds.  They have developed a really useful guide to talking about human rights, an issue where a large percentage of the UK public are ‘undecided’.  Much of the pro-human rights messaging has failed to connect with people, and this guide examines why.

The focus is on human rights but the information within is applicable to so many other areas as well – there’s great insights here for those of us trying to talk about poverty, climate, and more.

Some of the things that they highlight as backfiring:

Educating with facts
Facts alone won’t bring people round to your way of thinking – if a fact doesn’t chime with a person’s own experience it will simply bounce off them.

Myth-busting
Myth-busting helps to reinforce negative views. Most people won’t hear your ‘truth,’ they’ll hear the original argument you’re trying to disprove.

There’s more like this in the guide, and detailed and summary versions are available.
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About the Author: Jean

Jean O'Brien is a digital communications expert and designer, who has almost a decade of experience working as an online specialist with Irish charities.

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