Transformative Dialogue: 10 techniques to “change someone’s mind” (part 1)

Ryan Nakade
14 min readDec 23, 2020

(This essay will demonstrate how to explore the beliefs and perspective of others. Part 2 will explain how to advocate for your own positions).

What does it mean to “change someone’s mind?” Here I offer three definitions.

1.The first is to change the content of what one believes, e.g. believing climate change is a hoax to believing it’s real. This is the conventional understanding of changing one’s mind — to replace content X with content Y. Here beliefs are seen to be mutually exclusive, as one belief trumps another. This is what I call a horizontal shift in thinking.

2. The second definition involves upping the complexity level surrounding a belief, increasing the capacity for nuance, subtleties, and additional perspectives, but not necessarily changing the content of a belief. One could still believe climate change is real but more fully grok the elaborate complexity of the issue, seeing the many intricacies involved. Things aren’t so black and white, as there is a shift in how one thinks, a complexification of one’s underlying thinking process, an expansion of their mind. This is what I call a vertical shift in thinking, as how one thinks about an issue shifts to a higher level of nuance and sophistication.

3. The third definition is to shift the relationship one has with a belief, changing how identified, attached, and emotionally engaged one is with it. One still deeply cares about climate change, but can hold the issue with more detachment, reducing emotional reactivity while holding it with more flexibility and spaciousness. Here we see an increase in self-awareness around an issue, developing a meta-perspective on how our beliefs are constructed, thus changing our relationship to it.

The last two methods involve what I call Transformative Dialogue (TD), which deepens both our understanding of the topic as well as ourselves. TD strikes a transcendent middle way between debate (which seeks to horizontally shift what people believe) and dialogue (which focuses on deeper understanding). TD includes dialogue’s emphasis on understanding while also going beyond it, injecting more nuance, complexity, and perspectives into the conversation. This allows everyone to gain a more complete picture of…

Ryan Nakade

Depolarization, mediation, dialogue. Integrative solutions to cultural conflict. And diaphanous goat whisperer.