Bruce Layman

Bruce Layman

I was reading Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds from James Clear’s newsletter today and I wanted to apply some of his thoughts to our current situation.

However, truth and accuracy are not the only things that matter to the human mind. Humans also seem to have a deep desire to belong.

For so many people in this time of too much COVID news and misinformation from an orange buffoon with too much power, there is more concern in remaining with a tribe than there is with knowing the truth or accurate information.

Collectively, from the beginning of this outbreak, we (the rest of the world) have been starved for accurate information. Most—at least I hope most—people are looking for the true numbers of infected, what best can be done to prevent the spread, and how to help. Accuracy is up in the air because so many things are being covered up by China and the POTUS.

This desire to belong, to one political party or another, is unquestionably clouding so many people’s ability to care about truth and accuracy. More concerned with being part of the “right” tribe has been such a big focus in politics for the past 3.5 years for one party in particular, and it has divided the country, and no doubt, will cost a number of people their lives.

Understanding the truth of a situation is important, but so is remaining part of a tribe. While these two desires often work well together, they occasionally come into conflict.

In many circumstances, social connection is actually more helpful to your daily life than understanding the truth of a particular fact or idea.

Right now, understanding the truth, or perhaps the Truth, of the situation is of utmost importance. Our daily lives and the social connections that are bound to them have changes dramatically, and in this case, knowing the truth of what we can to do #flattenthecurve is key to making sure we still have a tribe left at the end of (waves hands about wildly) all this.

We don’t always believe things because they are correct. Sometimes we believe things because they make us look good to the people we care about.

I have thought about this a lot recently in relation to COVID and our current political predicament. I remember hearing a long time ago, in the early days of the Trump presidency (and maybe even during his candidacy) that Trump uses the ad hominem attack “Loser” often. The worst thing you can be in his eyes, and the eyes of those who follow him, is a loser. A loser is someone who asks for the facts, who trusts the media, who cares about others beyond those who look like themselves, the list goes on. A loser is anyone who isn’t Trump or his cronies or the people blindly following the jingoistic hate that he so wildly spews. There are so many people out there who desperately do not want to be losers. They will hang on to their pride, resisting the programs that will give them food or healthcare—because welfare is for losers—or continue putting the lives of those around them in very-real-danger—because Corona is a liberal media hoax—all for the sake of not being a loser.

Convincing someone to change their mind is really the process of convincing them to change their tribe. If they abandon their beliefs, they run the risk of losing social ties.

Nobody wants their worldview torn apart if loneliness is the outcome.

The way to change people’s minds is to become friends with them, to integrate them into your tribe, to bring them into your circle. Now, they can change their beliefs without the risk of being abandoned socially.

Here Clear offers us some hope. And in this time of quarantine, social distance, and distant socializing, I think there might be some opportunity for this. I do have some fear that we all might have become too insular for us to step outside of our bubbles and work to change the minds of someone who thinks differently, especially during this time when tensions are so high. No doubt, changing someone’s mind, even by inviting them in and giving them a new tribe, is a lot of work, socially and emotionally.

This is perhaps where our newly-forced forms of connection might be able to help us. Sometimes the physical awkwardness of meeting and talking about these hard topics can make you feel trapped because your only out is walking out. Now, if things get too tense, drop the Google Hangout and blame it on your bad internet connection. Give everyone a minute to cool off and jump back in.

In conversation, people have to carefully consider their status and appearance. They want to save face and avoid looking stupid.

Bring some levity to this insane situation we’re all in and work toward bringing someone into your fold. It’s a lot harder to feel like you need to preserve your status when you’re sitting, trapped, on your living room floor with a quarantine cocktail and your pajamas on.

One day in the future, when we are all mercifully freed from the confines of our shelters-in-place, we can do the work of physically bringing them into our tribes and cement that changed mind for the better.