Mind your mindset is the first part of the Reaching others series that helps us have honest conversations in which we seek for common truth even with those who have differing opinions.
Whatever I say, they don’t listen to me and we just end up arguing. What am I doing wrong?
Does it sound familiar? We try to understand and explain that question. In order to give a good answer, we need to understand how our mindset and our relationship with each other affects our ability to reach others. With an approach characterized by collaboration and a positive mindset, it will be easier to reach others.
Our mindset is something that we ourselves can influence even if that can be challenging. To change our mindset, we need to understand why and in what direction we want to do it. This material is meant to provide such knowledge and be a starting point when choosing a positive mindset.
You are important
Reflect on the situation you are in. You are one of the few who have chosen to resist propaganda and peer pressure. Far from giving up, you are still looking for solutions.
You have already shown great inner strength. Many of us have been rejected, ridiculed, and perhaps even mistreated by family members and friends when trying to explain our viewpoints. Yet we continue to be resilient and to look for ways of how to establish a successful communication. 
Sure, sometimes the sheer size of the issue can make it seem as too big to handle and you may have asked yourself what difference a single individual can make? Resignation can hinder us, which is something the opponents may be counting on. But the truth is that we can all effect change and play an important role.
You’re already very important. In fact, if you reach one person a day who in turn reaches someone else every day, you can reach everyone in your country in less than a month.  When enough people understand what is going on, it’s all over.
“One person can make a difference and everyone should try.” John F. Kennedy, American president (1917–1963) 
In conversations, we can relate to each other in different ways. We can see each conversation as having a certain dynamic. We will deal with two basic relational types, the oppositional and the cooperative dynamic. 
In the oppositional dynamic, we argue with each other from the position of different points of view. It is important to show that we’re right and that the other is wrong. It feels like we’re on different sides playing a verbal tennis match against each other as we try to find winning arguments. The oppositional dynamic can contain a competitive or downright hostile tone. When we are in opposition to one another, we do not listen to each other and it becomes difficult to reach the other person.
When we approach the other person in a collaborative way, we try to be on the same side and find points of agreement. Together we examine different ideas and see if they hold true or not. Within such a dynamic, it will be easier to reach people and encourage in them reflection and critical thinking.
The mindset with which we approach the conversation, affects the direction in which way it will go. We set the stage for which type of conversation will occur, so to speak. What we say, our tone of voice and the body language, signals to others what conversational dynamic we seek.
If we are in an oppositional dynamic, we will find it difficult to reach others. But if we choose a more cooperative dynamic, it is possible to reach others and make successful contact with the person. The conversation becomes more relaxed and we try to focus on what unites rather than separates us. Maybe we can agree on some of the issues that we think are important and then take the conversation further on from there.
It’s important that we get this step right. Should things go wrong, admit it to yourself, pause yourself, keep calm and start anew.
In the next few examples we will present conversations that illustrate the two different types of conversational dynamics.
Illustrative Conversation 1
Mary meets John and says. “Why are you wearing a mask? You know it doesn’t work!”
Then John replies. “Oh! Didn’t know you were a conspiracy theorist. Now I’m actually getting worried about you.”
This conversation illustrates an oppositional and potentially antagonistic conversational dynamic in which it becomes difficult to reach others.
Illustrative Conversation 2
Mary and John have gotten into a sensitive topic and she says. “The restrictions have cost lives.”
“The restrictions save lives. Otherwise, the health care system would be overburdened,” John replies.
“The health care system was overburdened long before covid,” Mary notes.
This example illustrates an oppositional but more competitive conversational dynamic, where we exchange facts in verbal table tennis, in which it is also difficult to reach others.
Illustrative Conversation 3
John and Mary have re-entered into a sensitive topic and he can’t help but say. “You sound like an anti-vaxxer.”
Then Mary replies. “I don’t think it’s helpful to put labels on each other. Why do we really need the vaccine, do you think?”
“To protect others,” John says.
“I want that too. To protect my family and everyone else. So we want the same thing really. But I think there’s more than one way to achieve that,” Mary said.
“Sure, and what would that be precisely?” John asks.
“Thank you for asking. I’m happy to talk about it for a while if you’re interested,” says Mary hopefully.
When we got into previous conversations, they had an antagonistic dynamic present in them. In this last example we see how Mary is making an effort to move the conversation to a more cooperative approach, and there now seems to be a potential for Mary and John to get on the same side and together reach common truth.
Our mindset influences how we behave and how others perceive us. By mindset we mean the attitudes, beliefs and values we have. Our way of seeing the world influences how we behave in different situations.
For the sake of simplicity we make a rough division of different views into the positive and the negative mindsets. Negative mindset is polarizing, it divides us into “us and them” mentality, and makes it harder to reach others. Positive mindset is inclusive, helps us to get on the same side, and makes it easier to reach others.
Pessimism, resignation, incomprehension and insecurity are among the characteristics of the negative mindset. Here are some examples of negative internal dialogue that exhibits these characteristics:
Pessimism: “I’ve tried, but I can’t. It is futile to stand up to overwhelming forces. I can’t understand why they think the way they do.’’
Resignation: “I don’t care what they think anymore. They’ve got only themselves to blame.”
Incomprehension: “How stupid can they be not to get it? I share important information, even though they don’t want to see it. Hello! Now it’s the time to wake up!”
Insecurity: “They have hurt me. How can I relate to them now? I don’t dare to openly question the narrative.”
The positive mindset showcases the characteristics of optimism, curiosity, understanding and confidence. Here’s how we can illustrate these positive internal dialogues:
Optimism: “Humanity has sorted out similar situations in the past. Now there is an opportunity to make a historic contribution. When enough people understand what is going on, it’s all over.”
Curiosity: “I want to understand how they think.”
Understanding: “It is human to be influenced by marketing and propaganda. We’re all really on the same side.”
Confidence: “When they misbehave, I know they do it as a part of their defence mechanism and I remind myself that they are influenced by the mass media and by peer pressure. When things go less well, I learn from the situation and get better.”
Change your mindset
Our mindset affects our ability to reach others. With the insight into which type of mindset makes it easier to reach others, we can also see what we need to change.
We are all somewhere on the scale between a negative and a positive mindset, and that can vary depending on the day, who we talk to and what we are talking about. The endeavour to change will be more challenging for some of us than others. Although the challenge can sometimes feel overwhelming, we can take comfort in the knowledge that every step in the right direction brings us closer to desired results.
Changing one’s mindset requires motivation, which we can find in the realization that there is a possibility to establish a better contact with others and also in the care and love that we have for family and friends that we want to protect.
In order to change the way in which we perceive and engage in conversations, knowledge is also required. This material can be a good start. When we practice reaching others, we get better at it.
Relationships are built on trust. Because it takes time to build trust, we can think of it as a capital—an investment. Each relationship has its own measure of trust capital.
If we raise a sensitive topic, the person we are talking to can react negatively and thus reduce the amount of trust capital they have in us. If instead we look for the things we have in common with the other person and try to look for points of agreement, even in sensitive subjects, the relationship can be strengthened.
It’s frustrating when others don’t listen to us. While it’s understandable that we put our need to speak out first, it can often become counterproductive. We are sacrificing the trust capital the other person has in us, with no way of getting through to them.
Sometimes our early attempts at communication have gone so badly that the trust is exhausted and it has become very difficult to get through to the person. In such a relationship, it is wisest to focus on rebuilding the trust before trying again. If you, for the time being, can’t reach the person, try to find comfort in knowing that there may be other people in that person’s circle who might be able to do so.
See the person
See the person you’re conversing with. We are all human beings, each with their own thoughts, feelings and experiences. Especially in troubled times, it’s easy to get emotional. It is important to show respect for the experiences and concerns of others, even though we may have interpreted events differently.
A humble attitude, as we also stay open to the fact that we may be wrong, makes the conversation balanced and provides an opportunity to learn from each other.
Have reasonable expectations and keep in mind that it takes time to process new information. It is good to settle for a simple step in the right direction in every conversation we have. 
When we talk about sensitive topics, it helps to have a positive conversational tone. We can have this by using a choice of words that makes positive feedback feel personal. So when we come to a point of agreement with each other, we can say, ” YOU have got that absolutely right.” However, when we feel that we need to critically assess another person’s point of view about a certain topic, we avoid doing it in a personal way by criticizing the person, but rather we critically assess the idea. Then we can for example suggest in a positive conversational tone: “Can we check out together if that holds true?”
The development of events is rapid and there is a lot that we want to share. We can easily be pulled into a habit of continuous talking, without giving enough space in the conversation for the other person. In comparison, if we listen to each other, we can get a better picture of our perceptions of reality and see if and how they differ.
When you give more space in the conversation to the person you are talking to, they get an opportunity to reflect and try to understand the situation themselves. The person’s own insight is always better than your attempt at persuasion.
Once you reach into deep conversations, don’t miss the chance to try to fully understand the other person’s point of view. Feel free to repeat what you have heard, since that will be a good opportunity to correct misunderstandings. When you also allow silence, both get a chance to think.
You can also choose the topic of conversation by asking questions that lead in the direction of conversation you want to hold.
Afterwards, think about what went well and what went poorly. Try to take advantage of things that went well next time.
In conversations, we can relate to each other in different ways. When we behave in a cooperative way, we are on the same side and can together investigate different ideas. Within such a dynamic, it will be easier to reach others.
Our mindset influences how we behave and how others perceive us. With a positive mindset, we look past the us-and-them mentality and can see our common goals. This makes it easier to reach others.
We are all somewhere on the scale between a negative and a positive mindset. It can feel like a considerable challenge to choose a more positive mindset. But all steps in the right direction will bring us closer to our desired results.
Trust capital is needed to get through to people. When we want to talk about sensitive issues, we run the risk of reducing trust. If we instead seek and succeed in reaching a common truth, the trust and confidence increases.
- Reaching People, https://reachingpeople.net/
- Mathematically, we then get twice as many people reached every day. It starts with one of us, then we become two, four, eight, and so on. On day 24, we have reached over 16 million people.
- Did JFK Say It?: “One Person Can Make A Difference And Everyone Should Try”, https://jfk.blogs.archives.gov/2019/10/28/make-a-difference-quote/
- Self-What?—the single most important success factor, Assmann, 2016, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/308266177_Self-What-_the_single_most_important_success_factor