What to do When ‘the Face Ain’t Listening’

So you’re talking to someone whom you’d like to buy in to your idea – buyer, spouse, team mate, etc – and you realise:

They’re not buying. No matter what I tell them, they don’t seem to be enrolling in my idea.

So you try a different approach, different logic, another kind of appeal to their senses…

But nope, no cigar – they still don’t seem to get the sense and usefulness of that thing you’re trying to have them see.

In other words: it’s like you’re ‘talking to the hand, and the face ain’t listening’.

When that happens, you need to realise that (very very likely) you’re trying to reason with someone who isn’t in a rational state.

Their emotional senses are looking for the stuff that feels good, and you’re here, trying to appeal to their intellect, intelligence and insight.

Obviously, that will go nowhere: the other person’s emotional world doesn’t understand stuff – no matter how compelling, logical, and sensible your argumentation may be.

You’ve probably had the experience, and if you don’t remember: if you’ve ever thought to yourself “But why don’t they *see* what I’m saying, that it makes sense?”, then you’ve been trying to reason with their emotions.

You can explain until the cows come home, but the mind won’t deal with information if the emotional world doesn’t feel it yet.

The other person’s emotional world is large, mostly subconscious, and it’s got power to overrule the mind, because the subconscious is tasked with keeping us safe, watching out for threats. It knows more than the mind does, it intuits – and it’s a paranoid gatekeeper.

Looks, feels, sounds, like a potential threat? Best be safe, and consider it a threat.

Live another day, in terms of evolutionary psychology.

Now obviously, it’s illogical that they’d feel some sort of unconscious threat – after all, you’re not trying to harm anyone, or force anything on them – but that lack of logic is exactly what the irrational nature of emotions is about.

So. If ever you find yourself reasoning with someone who’s just not getting it, seeing it, buying in to your idea and vision:

Stop.

Something in their subconscious triggered an emotional defense or disconnect, and hammering your point is only going to strengthen it.

Stop, and instead get that person to talk. Ask questions such as ‘what’s on your mind’ or ‘what does this situation look like to you’ or ‘are there any concerns you have about any of this’ or ‘if you were master of the universe, how would you solve or arrange this?’

The actual question you ask depends on the situation, but the important thing is that you get the other person to share their view, the vision that they’re working with.

With a bit of luck, you’ll uncover the reason why their emotions block understanding or adoption – which gives that person the validation that their concerns are valid, and that will help them trust you enough to at least try and see –
understand – the sense of what you’re trying to say.

In short: never try to reason with emotion, because it’s a ‘face’ that will never listen to reason.

Cheers,

Martin


Also published on Medium.

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