As two groups of people begin to voice disagreeing notions about each other, the doorway for members of each group to switch teams, if they so choose, narrows. It gradually becomes harder to switch sides in any facet of life with each additional hour you invest into identifying as being a part of a specific group.
A lifelong subscriber of religious beliefs, for instance, is less likely to be open to atheistic arguments than a religious teenager further exploring the avenues of people’s beliefs. Someone whose identity has grown rigid in its control of their behavior sees mighty barriers to break through, if they want to change their opinions. If their rigid identity is problematic to those around them, it becomes critical for those looking on to do their part in decreasing the level of difficulty involved in switching “sides.”
This article is about the act of someone switching stances, opinions, beliefs, or viewpoints. In the face of a person’s attempt to improve themselves for the better, they’re far too often ridiculed for their act of switching sides. Not only does the group they’re leaving cast them in a villainous light, the group they’re joining often doesn’t play its cards right either.
This article is written for people whose physical or ideological group a previous “enemy” may be deciding to join. It is written with a predicated notion that easing someone’s transition over to your side is a beneficial thing to do for many reasons.
Those reasons, include the encouragement of people’s willingness to change their minds as they gain new knowledge. Decreasing barriers to changing opinions, sides, and viewpoints will lead to groups being less partisan than if their social barriers of entry and exit were to remain high. The removal of the barriers to switching teams also seems to be contagious across groups. The positive effects thereby, can travel widely if only one of two contending sides encourages free and open movement in and out of its locality or ideology. The barriers in question are often subtle and implicit, but are powerful demotivators of people’s transition over to an improved identity.
The Past Is Often Shameful
A person letting go of a past identity in an effort to adopt a new one undergoes a significant level of trauma. The experience of admitting that a past ideology, belief, or stance was wrong is a difficult one to go through. Precious time was wasted from their perspective, and other social prices might’ve been paid. They may have embarrassed themselves vehemently protesting for an issue they didn’t understand the specifics of. They may have argued online through midnight until sunrise, with those who disagreed with their digital broadcasts.
When someone decides to change their mind and join you on your journey of ideology, belief, or opinion, be wary of how you contextualize their past. Don’t label a person’s past as a mistake, or an embarrassment. Be empathetic to the fact that the intelligent individual who’s on your side now, once subscribed to other beliefs just as strongly as they now subscribe to yours. Don’t shame them for who they once were, and allow them to tell their story exactly how they want it to be heard.
The fear of our past being labelled as silly, unintelligent, or misguided, is a barrier for change. Since we don’t want to admit that we may have once been dumb, people tend to double down on the rigid pathways their past has paved. They allow their past to dictate their thinking into the future solely based on the desire to not be wrong. Don’t label people as wrong for believing something before, then backtracking on their past beliefs.
Advertise the notion that groups, even those that your group disagrees with, are made up of humans too. Humans are intelligent, kind, altruistic, and empathetic to those who they call their mates and friends. Just as you are friendly to members of any group that you’re a part of, so are those in groups of which you’re not a fan. Understand that a person was not evil, angry, or malicious just because they disagreed with what you stood for in the past. They still kissed their daughters good night, and took their sons to the museum on weekends. Now, they simply decided to change. Don’t hold their past against them.
You’ve likely witnessed a system of seniority in some part of life. Whether it be at work, a fraternity, or simply among your group of friends, those who stick around the longest tend to get the bigger piece of respect from others. Seniority is often unstructured and unwritten. Those watching from the side find a system of seniority within any group to be a barrier of entry. The people watching from groups they may want to leave, envision themselves losing the position of seniority they’ve attained there, only to be at the bottom of the totem pole in the group with whom they now agree.
Whether these groups are political, social, or professional, respecting newcomers in the same way you respect those who’ve been around the longest will ease the barrier to entry. Don’t make it seem that you don’t respect those who decide to join you a little late on the journey that you’re on. Welcome them, and respect their future input to your cause just as much as you respect the input of those whose face and voice you’re used to.
Don’t Tell Them They Made the Right Choice, Show Them
A seasoned salesman can make us believe we’re saving money as we spend it. Those who are on a streak of getting tricked by salesmen grow tougher skin, and stricter social parameters. They lose trust in salesmen, and begin to doubt every word they say.
Don’t be a salesman for your group. Don’t throw parties for those who’ve previously disagreed with your stance on an issue when they finally admit to being wrong. Be humble in your ideological victories. Your act of excitingly welcoming those who make it over to your ideological, political, or social side communicates just how wrong you think they were before. It circles back to labeling their past as a waste of time and effort, and reeks of being an attempt to make them overconfident in what you’re selling.
Show those who join you in ideology, opinion, or understanding, that your group consists of careful thinkers. Show them that there are no tricks or schemes involved in getting others to join in agreement, but rather, that those who are a part of your group genuinely value something greater than shallow victories. Introduce new members of your stance, side, or group to an improved version of themselves. The first step to doing that, is to not be an ideological salesman and trivial cheerleader.