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The backfire effect: How to convince irrational people

It is 10 am in the morning, no coffee, no time even for stretching, obviously no surfing and I am on the 4th call of the day talking to potential investors for my company.

This was my life 4 years ago and I can tell you that none of these calls went as I wanted to.

Fast forward 2 years later, $1M raised in a week - mostly uneventfulness. This is not some weird flex as everyone knows that fundraising is a soul-crashing experience, regardless how easy it may seem.

People are stupid

If you have ever discussed with someone about politics, art, music, sports, food, drinks, fashion, science or let’s say anything on any subject then you agree with me (if not, you are stupid):

People are stupid because YOU are right and they cannot see how wrong THEY are

Sadly, you cannot always scream "YOU ARE AN IDIOT" to their faces and go on with your day. Sometimes you need to convince them that your argument is solid and theirs it is not.

Imagine that you are trying to raise money for your company and the investors cannot understand that your idea will be more earth shaking than the second coming of Jesus. Or that your political party is the only one that can save the country or why keto diet is the best diet in the world or why Bitcoin is a scam (it is a scam - please don’t argue with me).

Why people cannot stop being stupid and just agree with me?

The backfire effect

There are situations where the evidence are on your side. Literally like “the earth is not flat” kind of evidence, backed by science and backed by anyone else that has IQ over 10.

But still, there are people that THEY JUST DON’T get it. And what do you do?

You argue. You confront them with more and more and more evidence. More data. But they still act irrationally and cannot be convinced regardless the amount of evidence and data they are presented to.

This is the called the backfire effect.

When someone is irrational, any evidence presented to them is “fake” or irrelevant. Confronting them with more evidence cements their belief because now you are treating them as if they actually have a valid argument and you are trying to debate them.

My current Startup being a Wealth Management company, I have billions of stories to share.

When insanity knocks on your door

I manage people’s money for a living. I’ve been also managing my money for a long time. That doesn’t mean that I am the best one out there (hint: I actually am) but I run circles around non-professional investors. Again, not because I am smarter but because I am using data and this is what I do full-time.

The number of people I met that have 100% wrong opinion about the market, about stocks, about what to buy and what to sell, is staggering.

What is even more mind-blowing is that it is pretty easy to prove that I am right:

My investments make more money than their investments. It is super clear.

But again, they cannot be convinced.

I’ve met people that lost 30% of their money and they are still convinced that they did better (I am screaming silently, HOW?).

The super interesting crazy fact is these exact same people will trust a con salesman and get ripped off.

How to convince the inconvincible

I found out that you cannot convince everyone. Some people might have their own personal reasons and they will never share them with you. It is exponentially more difficult with people that they think they know better and think that they are smarter.

Avoid those people. They are toxic and a total waste of time.

For the rest, there is one simple question. One question to start the “conversion” process:

Do you find something that could be improved or that makes you unhappy with your current choice?

This small crack of light will let you see their perspective and with empathy you can understand why there is a push back.

Ask a “flat-earther” what is one thing that they disagree with the “flat earth theory”.

Ask an investor if they could turn back time, what they would have made different. Any investments that might have be avoided? Any lost opportunities?

Use empathy to relate and approach their point of view and I GUARANTEE you that even the most difficult and rigid people will crack.

Even if they are idiots, doesn’t mean that you should be too.

Photo by Oscar Sutton on Unsplash

- Thu 15 October 2020


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