Sometimes in the work we do, we find it difficult to reach people who are indoctrinated into an extremist ideology, but this doesn’t mean that our words fall on deaf ears. Sometimes it’s just listening to them that does the most good, sometimes what we say at the moment doesn’t quite sink in until much later. Make no mistake, your time is not wasted unless you let it go to waste or get overly emotional and lose them in the conversation altogether.
We must think of each and every conversation we have as planting seeds into the individual, which if not immediate, will eventually grow into something. Perceptions do NOT change instantly, nor even overnight most of the time, so we must be prepared to use due diligence and not expect things to expeditiously alter the hearts and minds of every person we speak to. Having the expectation that you’ll magically transform someone’s method of thinking will let you down nine out of ten times and this can feel self-defeating or pointless.
The best way to win over someone to reason and logic, especially if they are heavily indoctrinated, is to play the proverbial long game. Plant seeds of truth and fact, coupled with personal experiences, and you’ll find that you’re much more effective and feel less urgency to get them to wake up than to expect change right at that moment. You will feel more like you’re accomplishing more and won’t feel as though your methods are stagnant or falling to the wayside.
…just remember, you cannot win them all, but with the proper tact, demeanor, and context, you can plant seeds that will inevitably bear the fruit of your work. Don’t try to force anything or try to dismiss or disparage the emotions of those you talk to either, finding common ground is often the best way to get a point across without overstepping boundaries. Do not feed into emotional outcroppings, nor dismiss them, know that an outpouring of emotions often means they are trying to defend some tidbit of their indoctrination.
Stay within a narrative of simple discussion and friendly discourse, don’t let it deviate from that, or else you will lose them. Show them that they have a friend in you, that because you think differently, doesn’t mean that you’re their enemy.
They are looking for enemies, they are looking to dismiss your rhetoric, they are searching for something even they themselves do not know… the truth. If you can provide a kind and caring ear, coupled with true and factual information, you will be far more successful in getting your message across. No one wants to live a lie, however, once a lie is engrained via ideological indoctrination, the individual is much harder to reason with, they will struggle with new realizations and will often times resist.
No one wants to hate a friend, so it’s crucial to befriend the person, take your time, develop it through shared interests, and just be there for them. Become a true friend to them, joke around, tell them stories about your past involving your shared interest, this may take a little work and a little time. Keep your meetings with them to around 45 minutes to an hour and always set up another meeting by the end. This work will never be a one-and-done event!
Most importantly, be genuine, be yourself, give to them, what you desire from them, to be let in and trusted. This is crucial, as if you’re fake or disingenuous, you will lose them oftentimes forever. So be sure to be relaxed and ready to meet your new friend and get to know them better.