What Would it Take to Change Your Mind?

Let me draw you a picture

In his book Changing Minds: The Art and Science of Changing Our Own and Other People’s Minds (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2004), Howard Gardner describes different kinds of intelligence. Dr. Gardner is a professor of cognition and education at the Harvard Graduate School, so he has a solid reason to be espousing counter-intuitive theories of intelligence. Linguistic and logical-mathematical are two of the more primary and recognizable kinds of intelligence. And those two, in particular, are the focus of much of our schooling.

But there are other kinds, says Dr. Gardner, such as spatial intelligence, where one has “the capacity to form spatial representations or images in one’s mind and to operate up them.” Sailors and airline pilots depend on this intelligence, as do chess players. Or bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, where a person has “the capacity to solve problems or to create products using your whole body.” Artists, craftspeople, surgeons, dancers, football players, basketball players and many others work out problems in a very physical way.

Try a varied approach

Early in the book Gardner cited this important factor in changing one’s mind:

Presenting multiple versions of the same concept can be an extremely powerful way to change someone’s mind.

I suspect none of us are just one intelligence. We each have several (perhaps many) ways of knowing and depend on our different types of intelligence to walk through life. Experiencing multiple versions of a concept may trigger something inside us that suddenly opens our eyes or generates empathy. As advertisers well understand, presenting the striking model next to the car or perfume bottle spurs an emotional leap that can bypass rationality. Words alone don’t do that as often.

Though uniformly not up to par, my daily drawing experiments have shown a way forward with understanding. When stuck with words, I can switch to sketch mode and begin to make headway again.

All this makes me wonder about the work we each need to do to find new ways to express those deep things inside that need to come out but have so far fallen on deaf ears.


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