This seems to be my turn for having a refresher course on the importance of empathy in communicating with others.  Neil deGrasse Tyson - Dawkins perusasion

First, inspired by Obama’s efforts to explain empathy to the nation,  I write about my own misguided attempt to connect the 1950s Civil Rights Movement with the then highly upsetting news that Proposition 8 passed in California while my GLBT friends and allies were in the throes of processing their disappointment (see my previous post about Obama and the teachable moment.)

Then today, I run across a compelling video in which Neil deGrasse Tyson explains why just the facts alone are not enough.

To quote Tyson:

“Persuasion isn’t always here’s the facts, you’re either an idiot or you’re not. It’s here are the facts and here is a sensitivity to your state of mind. And it’s the facts plus the sensitivity when convolved together creates impact.”

“If they trust you, they’ll change”

A thought-provoking article in the New Yorker says the same thing by weaving together example after example of why some innovations spread rapidly and others take generations.  As the author points out, we now live in a world in which technologies have been developed that could make fantastic improvements in the quality of human life.  Yet, many of these technologies are languishing simply because people and cultures are reluctant to give up long-standing habits.

The article explains why:

Diffusion is essentially a social process through which people talking to people spread an innovation,” wrote Everett Rogers, the great scholar of how new ideas are communicated and spread. Mass media can introduce a new idea to people. But, Rogers showed, people follow the lead of other people they know and trust when they decide whether to take it up. Every change requires effort, and the decision to make that effort is a social process.

This is something that salespeople understand well. I once asked a pharmaceutical rep how he persuaded doctors—who are notoriously stubborn—to adopt a new medicine. Evidence is not remotely enough, he said, however strong a case you may have. You must also apply “the rule of seven touches.” Personally “touch” the doctors seven times, and they will come to know you; if they know you, they might trust you; and, if they trust you, they will change.

As the saying goes:  People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.




Original source for the Neil DeGrasse Tyson interview:

DeGrasse Tyson interview:

Oprah quote: cc licensed by krismc2011:


Filed under: conscious use of selfinfluencing othersinitiating change

Like this post? Subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!