To Persuade Others, Pay Attention to Their Values

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Together, organizational behavior professor Matthew Feinberg and sociologist Robb Willer have extensively studied why liberals and conservatives so rarely succeed at persuading each other — and how to overcome these challenges. They find that people tend to make arguments that appeal to the ethical code of their own side, rather than the values of those they are trying to persuade. This, they say, is because people tend to view their own moral values as universal. As a result, political appeals often offend, rather than connect with, those on the other side of the argument. However, Feinberg and Willer demonstrate that understanding others’ moral perspectives and speaking their moral language, not our own, is the first step to effectively persuading those on other side. Only by acknowledging what others hold most dear can we be begin to influence their political attitudes and overcome the moral stalemate our country faces.

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To Persuade Others, Pay Attention to Their Values

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