Cognitive dissonance prevents further unraveling

I have been using the analogy of a wound ball of yarn unraveling to describe what is happening with Trump voters. The outer layers represent the more moderate and rational voters who have seen what Trump represents and their support is unraveling. As the ball gets smaller, the unraveling becomes more difficult as the yarn is coated with cognitive dissonance.

One dictionary defines cognitive dissonance as “the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.” A definition I hold is calling the dissonance a “disharmony” that is upsetting to the person as it is at odds with what they believe.

When a person is confronted with facts that diminish their belief, they often run home to some source of information to tell them the facts are not true. This is s key reason people like watching pseudo-news sources that tell them what they want to hear. Some even rely on the President’s tweets as a source. But, that is not news – that is opinion from a biased source.

So, unraveling those inner layers is harder. The key to getting through is listening to them and asking follow-up questions. I have cited the example of how an African-American man was able to convince over 200 KKK members to cede their robes. He asked them questions, listened to their answers and followed-up with probing questions. This is as ardent a group of people as could be found, but even an object of their hate was able to reach them and alter their beliefs.

So, in this spirit, here are a few opening questions to pose to folks who disagree with your opinions. Then, listen and follow-up with more probing questions.

– What are your thoughts on placing tariffs on countries?

– What are your thoughts on the President’s meeting with Vladimir Putin?

– What are your thoughts on rolling back environmental regulations?

– What are your thoughts on the economy and our rising debt burden?

– What are your thoughts on the lack of efforts to rein in increasing health care premiums?

– What are your thoughts on better governing immigration issues?

These questions may not lead to opinion changes, but it may help gain some common ground and reveal the problem is more complex than being discussed. Some issues are not being discussed much at all.

Cognitive dissonance is a powerful coating  of protection. Emotion won’t crack it. It can only be unraveled through dialogue.

24 thoughts on “Cognitive dissonance prevents further unraveling

  1. Thanks, Keith, for this thought-provoking article. I really believe that the deep chasm between people of different beliefs can be bridged only through thoughtful and respectful dialogue. Yelling at each other deepens the gap and reduces the willingness to listen to each other.

    • John, thanks. You are so right. I don’t know of anyone who responds well to yelling, even when they are paid to listen to the yeller. Keith

      • You’re welcome, Keith. We have to find a way to dial back the emotion.

      • Agreed. Sadly, the US President has convinced his followed that any criticism is due to people not liking him. That is why the focus must be on what is being done (or not done)and said, not the man. Thanks again, Keith

  2. Note to Readers: Two things happened at the end of the week and weekend. The Justice Department released a redacted version of the subpoena request to surveil Carter Pagr approved by four Republican appointed judges that clearly notes that the request spells out one of the sources as the Steele Dossier. This directly contradicts the House Intelligence committee Report led by the GOP members.

    Also, Carter Page appeared on talk shows to refute the claim he was a Russian asset, but had a hard time answering one question as to why he advertised himself as an informal Advisor to the Kremlin. I have seen Page twice being interviewed and each time my wife and I concluded he was lying. Each time it was later confirmed he was indeed lying. Like with the President, my strong advice is not to believe a word Page says. He has earned that reputation.

    • Absolutely VJ. This one reason I get frustrated when others sling mud back at him. He would prefer a mud fight not a debate on issues. Keith

  3. Note to Readers: I saw a survey result presented on PBS Newshour regarding approval rating of the President:
    – Republicans are at 88%
    – Independents are at 36%
    – Democrats are at 9%

    What is not reported is how many Republicans migrated to Independents versus how many Democrats did. Given the number of conservative pundits who migrated, I have a sense the Independent ranks came more from the GOP.
    With that said, there are number of Republicans who would prefer a new standard bearer for 2020.

    I look at the Independent approval as the better bellweather. 36% is not a very good number.

    • I find these poll numbers shocking. 88% of Republicans approve of him?? It just confirms my belief at how far that political party has eroded, and that if you cut off the head of the beast, he will just grow another one.

      • Pete, they stymie me as well. I have a hard time understanding why his followers do not see what I see. If they worked for a man like this, they would be looking for another job. Right now, I am trying to figure out what Rand Paul is smoking? He has turned sycophant fairly quickly, which is unusual for him. I don’t agree much with him, but his last ten days have been mind boggling. Keith

  4. Note to Readers: Another obvious question is to ask “what are your thoughts when the President demonizes and name calls people and the media when they dare criticize him?”

    • Opher, many thanks for the reblog. Trump’s UK performance was extremely poor. To denigrate his host, then deny he did was rather weasel-like. Maybe that is the best image of the man. Thanks again, Keith

  5. What an excellent post, Keith! As always, you are the voice of reason and I find myself thinking, as I write, “what would Keith say?” Thanks for reminding us of that one crucial thing … we get further with civil discourse than with yelling. Now if only they will listen. I was stunned by the fact that 9% of democrats approve of Trump’s performance. I would have expected less than 1%.

    • Thanks Jill. I must confess, no person has ever tried my patience more than this man. When I see his picture behind the news anchor, my gut reaction is one of distaste. What has he done or said now?

      Even when he does something he is supposed to do, he cannot resist embellishing the story further or digging the knife into someone.

      So, what you read is the filtered and refiltered version. My poor wife gets the unfiltered response. Keith

      • I am surprised he doesn’t have rotator-cuff (shoulder) problems from patting himself on the back so much! I feel for your poor wife, but my girls are getting the brunt of mine, too. Sigh. Will we ever be the same again?

      • Jill, if a statue is created of the US President it would be of him patting himself on the back. A close second would be him hugging himself. Keith

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