'Persuasion fatigue' is a unique form of social frustration

C C Offline

EXCERPTS: How do you react when your powers of persuasion fail? You might dismiss the person who doesn’t heed your arguments as biased, dimwitted or otherwise out of touch with reality. You naturally feel your own logic is irresistible. You might decide to stop talking about that particular issue. You might even cut ties. Indeed, these unresolved debates can contribute to social estrangement and parent-child breakups.

The whole experience may feel like trying to guide someone on a journey when they refuse to follow. They drag their heels, wander off in the wrong direction and throw away the map you made for them. We have coined a term, persuasion fatigue, to describe this unique form of frustration.

In ongoing research, we are investigating the consequences of this experience. Our initial findings—still unpublished—suggest that persuasion fatigue is widespread. Of 600 people in the U.S. who participated in recent studies, 98 percent reported having experienced this fatigue, sparked by discussions of topics such as politics, religion and health. Our work also suggests that most people believe debates hit dead ends because the other person in the conversation was at fault.

[...] It is true that others are not always open to your ideas. Ending the discussion can therefore be the right thing to do. But in an overheated debate, your fatigue may lead you to misinterpret the situation and believe that your opponent is too dim or too deluded to see the truth. It is exceedingly unlikely that you never contribute to frustrating debates. We humbly suggest that sometimes it’s not them; it’s you. Fortunately research suggests some sound approaches for salvaging these situations and protecting your relationships.

[...] To reach your audience, it may be essential to express your message in terms of their values, not yours. Psychologists call this “moral reframing...”

[...] Finally, your fatigue may be exacerbated by thinking or assuming that debate is a zero-sum struggle—that you win if, and only if, your opponent loses. But sometimes you’re better off seeing an argument as a collaborative effort to find the truth—less like angry neighbors fighting over their property line and more like a pair of land surveyors...

[...] The tendency to blame others for wearying debates has real consequences. In our exhaustion, we may neglect to see when our frustrations stem from a deep desire for connection. Recognizing persuasion fatigue—and how we contribute to it—may help us pass through contentious social terrain without leaving those we love behind... (MORE - missing details)

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