How do you approach and understand people with opposing views? In this episode of The Agent of Wealth Podcast, Karen Tibbals and Marc Bautis discuss the current, strong political divide that the United States is facing, and what’s underneath our moral fundamental belief systems. Karen dives into tactics that will help you have difficult conversations and repair relationships, rather than preaching your beliefs.
In this episode, you will learn:
- How social and political beliefs became aligned.
- The 5 Moral Foundations: belonging in a community, respect for authority, sacredness, care for others, and fairness and how they apply to understanding each other.
- Why preaching your beliefs to someone will actually have the reverse effect.
- Three techniques proven to change people’s minds.
- How to repair relationships with people who you’ve disagreed with.
- And more!
On today’s show I brought on a special guest. Karen Tibbals. Karen is the author of the recently published book Persuade Don’t Preach, Restoring Civility Across the Political Divide.
Karen I think your book is very timely. We just finished an incredibly politically charged and divided election. On top of that, we’re coming up on the holidays, which will be different this year, because of the virus, Friends and family are still going to get together who may be on opposite sides with their political beliefs,
And we’re still divided even though the election is over.
How did you decide to write a book on this topic?
Well, I had a career in the pharmaceutical industry for many, many years. And then I had a religious calling which is weird to talk about on a finance podcast, but, that’s just the way things are. I left that job and I went to seminary. And while in seminary, I found this psychological theory that the book is based on called moral foundations theory. I was doing market research and hoping to launch new drugs and was an expert in consumer behavior. But when I found this theory, it totally changed the way I looked at people. Everything. I thought I knew about how people act as individuals got challenged. Now I understand that people act as part of a tribe, which is what we’re seeing going on in the political arena. So I found this theory and it changed the way I looked at the world. I would talk to people and they didn’t quite see what I was seeing. I saw an opportunity and a need for me to explain the way I interpreted the theory and how it applied to the world around us.
You mentioned the seminary and obviously it’s not a topic we talk a lot on the podcast, but it is one that’s interesting. What happens when you finish the seminary? Do you come out with a degree and get a job in the field?
I have a master’s in religion. From the seminary many people get a master’s of divinity where they are either preparing to go to a church or preparing to be a chaplain. I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do. I thought I was going to start an organization to support people who wanted to deal with the issues of conflicts in their business life and their religion. I actually did start that organization and with a couple of other women and it’s up and running. But I decided it wasn’t for me to do long term. I started the organization and I can use this for my masters on how people in my religion, which was Quakers, had applied it to their business life.
And it actually relates to the topic of this podcast because Quakers were very successful business people in the 18th and 19th centuries. One of the reasons was because they developed a clear set of rules about how you ran your business. This helped them manage their debt levels. And because they actually set the tone for what was expected of a business. It turned out to be a very successful way to run a business. They didn’t do it because they wanted to, they did it because of religious reasons. But it turned out to work really well. And they were the first first people to set out rules for bankruptcy.
It’s funny. You can, you can look at businesses principles now and what drives success and you can trace a lot of it back going back hundreds of years. And the fact that they manage their debt levels compared to now where so many people have problems with it. A lot of this can be simplified and one of the famous books in personal finance is called The Richest Man in Babylon, and it takes these simple principles of saving more than you spend. And by following those principles like the Quakers you can set yourself up for success personally and in your business.
Yeah. They had a concept, they called just debt and it’s to be used appropriately. I’ll write a book called just Debt.
Your book came out in April, and we were talking about how timely it was. But publishing a book is not something you can just slap together. When did you actually start writing it?
Actually it’s my second book on the topic. Okay. The first book I wrote was about how the theory is applied to marketing, which is what I did for a living. A lot of Persuade Don’t Preach is a repeat of what I wrote in the marketing book. I updated it and changed it to, to take out the marketing examples and put in political examples instead. I actually started on it about two and a half years ago.
There’s always been a political divide. There always will be a political divide. How do we approach understanding people on both sides of the divide and make a better environment than the divisive one we are in now?
The basic premise behind the book is that what’s happened in the last 20 to 30 years is that our social and political beliefs have become aligned. Before that you had conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans, you don’t anymore. So that’s what motivated the divide. We didn’t have it quite like this before. That’s something new.
You’re saying that people are on the extremes, right?
Well, it’s not just that life works together as opposed to something working one way and another thing working the other way, and they balance each other out. That doesn’t happen anymore. Underneath the divide is the divide of morals, what Jonathan Haidt calls, Moral Foundations. Our fundamental belief systems are really driving the divisions, and we have to understand what those are. We don’t ever think about what our fundamental beliefs are. When people who are acting in the way we find so bizarre or odd, or that we really hate actually have a philosophical underpinning that leads them to act that way. That actually makes some sense, and there’s some validity to it. And if we want to connect, then we can perhaps start to talk to each other in a way that we can hear each other.
The Five Moral Foundations
I add some more things to it because I think it’s a little bit too simplistic, but I’ll focus on the five that he talks about
- Belonging to Community
- Respect for authority.
- Care for others
What we find is that liberals tend to be extremely high on care for others and fairness, and conservatives tend to be high approximately evenly across all of them.
What happens is that when the liberals look at what the conservatives are doing, they think what the conservatives are doing is unethical and conservatives think what the liberals are doing is unethical because they’re working from different patterns. But if you can understand what’s underneath them, then you start to see it’s not unethical, it’s not a different ethical belief system. So what I say when I do my presentations to groups is that we all have the same moral foundations. We have different interpretations of the foundations and different importance to them. And it’s those interpretations and the importance that leads to the conflict.
We started off before, talking about the beginning of the book and the title of the book is about persuading and not preaching. I see that everyone has a tendency to preach and try to push people towards their way of thinking, and it has the opposite effect. It forces that person to be even more passionate about what they believe in. I guess that’s the normal behavior, correct?
The academic research shows that’s exactly what happens. The more forcefully you make your point, the more people protect their own belief system. I use an Aesop Fable to explain this which is that the sun and the wind decided to see which one’s more powerful. The way they’re going to decide, which was more powerful, was which one could make the traveler take off their cloak. The wind goes first and blows as hard as it can. And of course the traveler holds onto their cloak even more tightly, which is exactly what happens when we preach. And then the sun came next and warmed up the earth. And the traveler of course, took off their clothes and relaxed and sat on the cooler. So of course the sun was more powerful and that’s what the book tries to convey. If you can talk to another person in a way that makes them relaxed, that makes them feel like you’re on their side, then they’ll listen to you point
Is there a certain language that enables someone to approach topics in a persuasive way versus preaching?
Three Techniques Proven to Change People’s Minds
I spend most of the time in the book talking about moral reframing. There are two other ones The second one is deep canvassing, which some political groups are starting to use. There are studies that have been shown to prove it shifts about 10% of people’s perceptions. It involves having deep conversations with somebody where they get a chance to talk about what they believe. And then you get a chance to talk about what you believe, but you give the other person the chance to talk first.
You try to come to a common understanding in about a 10 to 15 minute conversation.
Ethical zone reframing is learning how to talk in the other person’s belief system. For example, I said liberals really care for others and fairness, and for the conservatives it’s a little bit lower.
If the conservative can learn to come up with fairness language then they’re more likely to convince them, conversely, if the liberal wants to convince the conservative, they talk about respect for authority then they’re going to be more likely to convince them. Once you start seeing those different moral foundations that are underneath everything, and you start to use that language, then people can start to hear you.
Can this be applied to something like Thanksgiving dinner whren I’m sure there’s going to be interactions and inevitably political talk will come up. Should you just avoid or change the topic?
Well, if you want to avoid the topic or change the topic, that’s fine. That’s a good strategy. If it works for you. If you can’t do that, or you don’t want to do that, I’m presenting an alternative and it’s going to be in my newsletter on Monday, which will drop Monday morning on what else you can do. What I was testing is that instead of talking about the election you can start to identify the values that I’m talking about, the moral foundations, and really start to try to relate to the other person on what, what moral foundations are important to them and how that influences the way they think. Stay away from the election itself, but really talk about the things that are very important for us that we never talk about.
I have a mnemonic that I’ve been starting to use
A – ask not leading questions, or to get a point across. Ask questions to be curious.
L – Listen, witn your ears to hear what is underneath what they are saying.
A – Affirm what you can
R – Respond, finally say something and make your point with the values that are important to you.
Is there a way to repair things after the fact?
Someone has to take the first step. And if you’ve got the tools, then maybe you can, I probably could have called my aunt up. She probably wouldn’t ever even notice now, but I had to do the work. And then people need to be willing to do it. This isn’t easy. If it was easy then we would all be doing it, wouldn’t we?
I say that all the time, things are hard, but the hard things are the most rewarding.
What’s what’s next for you? Do you have another book planned?
I’m working on my newsletter, which comes out weekly called mending fractured relationships. And I have a feeling that’s going to be my next book because what I do in the newsletter is I, I tell stories like the story of my aunt. And then I provide ideas for how to approach it in a different way. So it’s a way of taking the same theory and working with it and, you know, giving samples that are concrete and real. So I think that, I think that’s my next project.
How can someone get in touch with you?
Everything is on my website. https://www.persuadedontpreach.com.
There’s information about where you can get my book, how to book me for a speaking gig, other resources and a link to the newsletter.