This is the most amazing story you will hear this year. I guarantee it.
I’m going to talk about some sensitive issues, but I don’t want you to focus on the issues themselves. Instead, try to understand the underlying message. Here we go.
How to Make KKK Members Stop Being Racist
Last night, while doing research for another article, I came across this video.
Just read the title:
The title alone intrigued me and I’ve decided to take out 20 minutes out of my work schedule to watch the video. After reading through this article, I suggest you do the same.
Here’s the short version of the story:
Daryl Davis is American musician, who happens to be black. As you’ll see, the color of his skin is important to the story. He decided to find out why racist people are racist. In his own words, he wanted to find out:
How can you hate me when you don’t even know me?
Unlike most of us who simply get angry at these racist fucks and attribute their racism to unfounded intolerance or false beliefs, he decided to take another approach — calmly talk to them to understand their point of view.
By “them” he meant the group which literally exists to be racist, the Ku Klux Klan. He set up an interview with a leader of the KKK but told his secretary to leave out the fact that Daryl was black before the interview.
Once Kelly arrived, things expectedly turned awkward, but Daryl still conducted his interview. Over the following years, the two became friends in a way, and Kelly often came to Daryl’s house for dinner. In turn, Kelly showed his hospitality by inviting Daryl to KKK meetings.
Yes, you read that right.
The leader of the KKK, a group which was founded on the belief that people with different skin color are inferior and should be segregated or eradicated, became a buddy with the person he was supposed to hate.
In fact, here’s the two of them sipping juice at the backstage of a KKK rally:
Their relationship went on for years until Roger Kelly — the national leader of the KKK — decided to quit. Just by listening and trying to genuinely understand the other side, Daryl Davis made Kelly, as well as many other members since, quit the KKK.
To me, this is the most amazing story I have heard in… well, probably ever.
While the story itself is noteworthy, there’s a deeper message here that all of us can apply. You see, Daryl concluded that hate stems from the fear of the unknown. By getting close to the KKK, learning from them, and educating them, both sides learned more about each other.
In doing this, the fear of the unknown which drives the hate is removed, so by extensions, the hate is removed as well.
Why Proving Someone Wrong Usually Doesn’t Work
Now, while I am personally completely confident in disavowing racism, the KKK, and everything similar groups stand for, Daryl’s notion can be applied to our own lives.
Not only that, his approach is actually backed by science.
Let’s take a page out of Daryl’s book and do what he did: Take a look at the way of thinking KKK applies when it comes controversy due to their beliefs.
Everybody keeps screaming that racism is wrong and the KKK doesn’t listen. In their mind, the others simply “don’t understand them”. Even when they’re presented with hard evidence that their beliefs are flat-out incorrect, they become more likely to strengthen their beliefs.
This is known as the backfire effect.
Backfire effect happens when someone presents you with new and better information that contradicts something you believe. However, instead of saying: “Hmm I didn’t know that, thanks!”, you’re more likely to react: “FAKE NEWS, this is proof that I’m right!”
It’s completely illogical. Then again, humans are very prideful.
If you really want to change someone’s mind, as painful it may be, try to actually understand their opinions. That’s what Daryl did and that’s why he had such great success. By understanding the other person, even if their beliefs seem batshit crazy, will make it more possible for you to change their mind.
While it may go against every fiber of your being, hearing someone out and genuinely putting yourself in their shoes, no matter how ridiculous their claims are, makes it more likely their minds will eventually change.
This is called empathy and it can be a very powerful tool.
It’s one of the foundational elements of changing the way you think about the world, especially when it comes to being social and respected.
In fact, that’s why I’ve dedicated a chapter to it in my mental strength guide Develop a Mind of Steel.
Empathy is more than just “feeling the feels” of someone else. It’s being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand that they have lived a different life, which made them adopt a different perception, different values, and a different outlook on the world.
If you ridicule someone or make fun of their opinions, they will likely dig in even further. It’s the classic fight-or-flight response when attacked.
When the opponent is challenged or questioned, it means the victim’s investment and thus his intelligence is questioned. No one can accept that. Not even to themselves.
— Guy Ritchie, Revolver (2005)
In fact, as some studies show, your brain registers being proven wrong as painful as actual physical pain. So it’s no wonder that direct attacks on someone’s belief system will rarely bear fruit.
Everybody already tried it. It doesn’t work.
So How Can You Actually Change Someone’s Mind?
If you take real effort to see where someone is coming from, to understand how they came to their conclusions, and THEN present them with better information, it’s more likely you’ll be able to change their minds.
Professor Jordan Peterson is great at doing this on a regular basis.
If you’re not familiar with him, Jordan Peterson is a controversial Canadian clinical psychologist who went viral a few years ago. While I don’t agree with all of his views, he is a great example of someone who doesn’t just get into a screaming match with you but hears you out first.
Charlie from Charisma on Command did a great breakdown on this:
Here’s how you can apply this advice to your own life:
Try this out: Next time you’re in a disagreement with someone, do your best to hear them out and make it feel like you understand them.
Even though you may be 100% in the right and know it (like when it comes to the fact that racism is bad), try putting yourself in the other person’s shoes.
This doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, but try understanding how things look from their perspective and why they believe what they believe.
Of course, this isn’t a magic bullet to brainwashing or de-brainwashing someone. In the end, every person needs to make a conscious decision to want to change. This approach only makes it likely to make someone more open to that possibility.
As Daryl explained it: There is no fighting while two adversaries are talking. It’s when the talking stops that the violence starts.
So keep the conversation going.