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.