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How to win hearts and minds

By Joel Pablo Salud Published Oct 15, 2021 9:29 am

Think of a rudderless boat with people in it. Wafting in the middle of the ocean. In the dead of night. Dark waters yawning like the abyss. Without an oar or a paddle. At the mercy of the elements. Wind-blown, wave-tossed. Lost.

Imagine you’re in a helicopter as part of the rescue team. You’ve been screaming your lungs out for hours, instructing those at sea’s limbo to go north to the direction of an island.

However much you scream, your words fall on deaf ears. Why? Because it would’ve been impossible to follow your lead even if they tried.

Unless you drop a rope, tie it ‘round the bow, and with great care pull them to shore.

Facts hardly change people’s minds. This comes with scientific study. Exposing some people to the reality that they’re lost simply doesn’t cut it. The mind, for some reason, seems to be averse to the cold, dry trappings of the truth regardless of evidence.

While it may be true, as author Aldous Huxley once wrote, that facts do not cease to exist just because it is ignored, it is likewise painfully true that while the truth may set you free, it must first piss you off, as another writer said.

People don’t want to get pissed off any more than they want to stay in their precarious conditions. The truth’s discomfort is the reason why they shun it in the first place. As such, the conundrum they find themselves in can be debilitating.

One such conundrum is acknowledgement. Admitting to one’s self that he’d been wrong is a difficult enough predicament as it is. Admitting his errors to others is a whole different torture chamber altogether.

This is where the attempt to change someone’s heart and mind gets tricky. Them feeling a summons to judgment or condemnation can be real. They fear it, as everyone should. The chances of them getting “cancelled” or treated as pariah—an exile—should not sit well with anyone, more so to the one who has committed some grievous mistake.

And since most people think that falling into error is a betrayal of some sort, more so in the world of politics, blame and denunciation become foregone conclusions.

Worse, social media helps people remember, leaving any chance at leniency, reacquaintance and acceptance well-nigh impossible.

Timing is also crucial. If one changes his mind all because political conveniences call for it, like in the coming elections, it begs the question: how true or real can this change be? Balimbing pa more?

In a world where engagement has been relegated to pixels, screengrabs, and memes, the call for a more personal human contact is ever more crucial. This is where we must all go out of our comfort zones and do the little we can to care for the next person.

What happens next becomes inescapable: ego puts a wedge between the person and the truth. The fear of being condemned, pilloried, or ostracized for what he once stood for compels him to grab hold of the one thing which could save his face and name.

This arrogance hardens over time and soon enough becomes impenetrable. Thus, the die is cast. This is where the person defends his blunder with a level of rabidness the likes of which is unseen in humans.

As I have said in a previous article, it’s not wrong to let friendships crumble if and when your own safety and mental health stand at risk of being crushed. However, as every problem has a solution, there is likewise a key to unlocking every closed door.

I cannot now recall who posted it on Facebook, but the netizen said, “People will not care for what you know if they don’t know if you care.”

Ideas and words flung left and right hardly convince anyone that you mean business. While “planting seeds” is an apt metaphor for the effort of sharing facts, the same seeds would sooner die apart from the light and warmth of sunshine, without the tender wash of rain.

In a world where engagement has been relegated to pixels, screengrabs, and memes, the call for a more personal human contact is ever more crucial. This is where we must all go out of our comfort zones and do the little we can to care for the next person.

And by “care,” I mean not only to show personal attention and warmth, but to remember the word’s origins, which is “to grieve”. To feel the other person’s dilemma, to have a genuine sense of his own quandary. To grasp the full picture of why he was lured by lies in the first place.

Like one who sits beside a sickbed, as in the Old Norse definition—to nurture, tend, and oversee. To treat the error more as an infection than a crime. To hold the hand and not be afraid to lead him out of a dark, perilous road.

In short, warm bodies attract warm bodies. It’s the one law of nature that life cannot do without. Humans meet, converge, rendezvous with friends, mingle with strangers, build communities and cities where they can live together. We are beings who make it always a point to huddle together for help, nourishment, and encouragement.

Humans meet, converge, rendezvous with friends, mingle with strangers, build communities and cities where they can live together. We are beings who make it always a point to huddle together for help, nourishment, and encouragement.

The pandemic may not seem a fitting time to do this, but we all have our humble sphere of influence to consider. The home, grocery, sari-sari store, the delivery guy. We can all start there.

Allow me some proviso: not all are worth the empathy. There are those whose job is to crush you, leave you hurting inside all because they are paid to do it. It takes a good eye and ear and a sprinkling of wisdom to know the difference.

Showing sympathy to everyone is quite a tall order. The ones closest to us, those within arm’s reach, are more than enough. The powers’ hired hands will have to contend with the truth in their own way.

There comes a time in people lives when we are called to do great things. And the Good Book says that among the greatest to experience—joy, patience, tranquility—the greatest of these is love.

No, not the feel-good, goosebumps sort of “love,” but the one which refuses to compromise with lies.

The reason being is that love goes beyond being a mere social experiment. It is the force that wins hearts and minds.