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How to Change a Stubborn Player's Mind

How to Change a Stubborn Player's Mind
Psychology, Diplomacy, Strategy, Negotiation

Article Rating:::: 22 Ratings :::: Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sometimes in the course of a Risk game you may come across a player that you need to make a deal with. After all, diplomacy is key and with that you need to engage with other players. Some players are inherently deal-makers and would be interested to listen to you. Others may not be willing at all thinking that deal-making is a waste of time. What can you do to convince them, so at least they give it a try?
Even when you negotiate with those who are receptive, you may end up in a dead end where you need to convince them about your idea. What if they are stubborn and unwilling to change? What can you do to move them from the position they have taken to accept yours.

It turns out that are indeed a number of techniques you can use to break a stubborn person's stance. They are as follows.


1. Change the circumstances.

Help him to get out of his position. For example, give new information so that he can safely get out of his position by saying that, "Now that I know the other players are ganging up against us, well, sure I agree with you."

2. Get him to agree to something general before you move on to your argument.

For example, "I am sure you agree that close-mindedness is bad". Then move on to say something that he can't be close minded about; "If you want to win in Risk you need to have a fluid strategy, which at this point means attacking Africa."

People don't want to be confused. As a result they try to maintain their internal logical consistency by following with what they have agreed to.

3. If someone doesn't want to do something, then restrict him in doing it.

As soon as someone feels limited in options, he starts to develop a desire to actually do it. It's like becoming clusterphobic and feels limiting and suffocating. The more limited he is, the more he may be inclined to do it. This is why outright bans don't usually work as people start to develop a desire to be rebellious and like to go against the rules.

4. Make him physically move.

Physical move helps to change mental position. This is particularly effective when you are playing around a board game. The best way to initiate a physical move is to start it yourself. Just stand up and say you will be back shortly (then go to get a soft drink or visit the bathroom). Others may easily follow suit taking advantage of an opportunity to get a stretch. That's what you wanted; a change. When you get back, you could start all over again with a fresh deal and hope for the best.

5. Use the law of reciprocity.

This is a very effective method in overcoming a stubborn's decision. Show that you can change your mind prior to the argument, by accepting his point of view or simply refer to a situation and say "Now that I have thought about this, I think you are right and I have now changed my mind". Sometime later, you present your own argument and you can expect him to change his mind to return the favour.

Reciprocity has been explored in many different fields including game theory where it is identified as Tit-For-Tat in the game of prisoner's dilemma. Refer to Chapter 8 of Total Diplomacy for detailed analysis of this topic.

6. Present both sides of the argument.

When delivering, present your argument first then present his, so he wont feel that his point of view is completely ignored.

For example, "Ok, here is what I understand, I want you to leave my continent, and you think that means you may lose some of your armies." ... "yes" .... "Well in that case, I can move my armies out of your way, so that you can leave unharmed. That will serve both of us."

7. Make him participate in the construction of the new idea.

If he feels responsible for contribution towards the solution, it will be much more difficult for him to back out of it. This generally means you need to ask questions repeatedly and guide him towards the answer.
For example,

You: "The build of armies here by Red is becoming a problem"
Him: "Yes" ...
You: "I think we are both under threat"
Him: "Yes, it looks bad"
You: "I am wondering if we can somehow reduce the size of it."
Him: "mmm, maybe we should attack it a bit to reduce our vulnerability"
You: "Absolutely agree with you."

8. Reposition yourself when arguing against his belief.

Sometimes, a stubborn person doesn't budge no matter how much you try to pursue them. It could be because they adhere to a belief that is in contrast with what you want him to believe. At this point, no matter how much you try to convince him, you wont get anywhere. Because it is not about your argument, it's about his mentality and his own belief system. If the idea is not consistent with his belief system, he is not going to accept it. So, what kind of a tactic can you use?
The solution is to move to a higher level. Ask yourself, when would he be more willing to accept your point of view. What do you have to change to get him out of the dilemma, so that he feels OK with his own beliefs.

For example, a player may say that he doesn't believe in alliances. If you want to make a deal with him, you end up having a hard time convincing him. Instead approach it in a different way. Ask him to have an agreement explicitly over something that is beneficial to both of you. Focus on the benefits he will get. Just don't call this process making a deal. Focus on outcome and he will miss the point that he did not believe in making alliances.

9. Take advantage of cognitive dissonance.

Humans feel uncomfortable when they have to hold two conflicting beliefs. The theory states that, when the mind is confronted with these conflicting believes, it attempts to modify and reshape the existing beliefs so that the amount of dissonance is reduced. There has been considerable research on cognitive dissonance. The research has found that when humans are persuaded to lie without being given sufficient justification, they will carry out the task by convincing themselves of the falsehood. Instead of telling a lie or denying it completely, they convince themselves that it must be true, so that they can reduce the internal conflict and end up feeling better about themselves.

Hence, to change someone's mind, you need to reduce dissonance, so that what you ask them does not contradict their internal believes. A person who goes to a boring work everyday tries to convince himself that what he does is not that bad after all. He tries to stay rational and minimises his internal conflict. He tries to look at the bright side and make it more interesting for himself. If you want to convince this person to give up the silly job, show them how great other jobs can be. May be he should become self employed. May be he should go and work for a charity instead of a fast food company. Raise the internal conflict so that the equation is tilted to the other side. Now in order to reduce the conflict, he can switch a job and all will be well. You have managed to convince him that the current job is rubbish and he needs to move on by putting him in direct conflict with his own belief. When it comes to believes, people go through phases. If you want to guide them to your desired destination, you need to understand their internal conflicts and be able to show them a way out. This is applicable to all kinds of arguments.

A classic strategy in Risk involving cognitive dissonance is to tell a player that their massive invasion is really a bad idea and that normally great Risk players win by making small calculated moves. Since he can easily believe in this, he will come to stop making big moves exactly at the point when it is time to make big moves. He changes his mind to stay rational with what he believes and makes sense. However, in the process,  you have managed to influence his strategy to your benefit.

Can you think of any other method you can use to get a stubborn player to change his mind? Share similar Risk scenarios you have experienced in the past that you managed to successfully change a player's opinion to your benefit. How did you do it? How difficult was it? What is more likely to work?

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Sling   By Sling @ Monday, May 26, 2008 1:33 AM
Very helpful. One of my friends likes to become powerful and always be neutral. He is extremely stubborn in this but at the same time is very trustworthy and can be an invaluable ally. Always a difficulty trying to coerce him to see my point of view.

dilshad   By dilshad @ Sunday, June 1, 2008 2:02 PM
Play Game regularly. Game makes a man healthy.

I challenge you to a game of trivia! Click here to battle against me online at ConQUIZtador. Let's see who's the winner...

G.I. Joe   By G.I. Joe @ Sunday, June 1, 2008 10:59 PM
As usual, great article Ehsan. You really summed up what diplomacy is: changing someone's mind. These things don't just apply to stubborn players. This is a must read article for anyone confused about how to make wise diplomatic choices. Great job!

Pxer   By Pxer @ Sunday, July 6, 2008 1:12 AM
This is a great article in using psychological tactics to change the mind of the stubborn player. I would love to see a related article that focuses on strategy of changing a stubborn player's mind if you have the time for it...especially one that deals with starting locations. Recently, in some games I have been playing, a player has built up their armies right from the beginning where I want to build-up my starting forces, even if I have a clear territorial advantage. In almost all of these recent cases, each of us has worn one another down to the point of an early exit from the game for both of us. It seems like escape is a difficult thing, especially if you want to set yourself up well for the longrun. Getting out of the continent (unless it is Australia) is the only alternative I have thought about strategically, but this places me usually stuck between two large forces in north america or wasting away in asia/europe while giving my opponent SA or Africa. Any tips for avoiding an early conflict when your opponent seems bent on controlling the continent you both coexist on?

Jeff Gross   By Jeff Gross @ Wednesday, August 13, 2008 3:11 PM
Risk will be played fifty, a hundred, a hundred fifty, ad infinitim just like chess, checkers and parcheesi. It is classic. The author critical of Risk who claims that there are other games much better than Risk mentions, quite frequently, that Risk is too long. I am hard pressed to figure out which game, which resembles Risk, takes less time. For that matter, have you ever set up the board for Axis and Allies?
The simplicity of Risks rules, pieces, and play make it possible for the player to spend more energy on the strategy of the simple game and less energy on the lenghthy, tedious set-up and rules of Risk's competitors.

Echron   By Echron @ Saturday, November 22, 2008 6:19 AM
To the point of using mental games upon opponents the better one I have found is to actually force a habit of not lieing or breaking alliancess with players. I never have (I have my tricks though but they are secret) devcieved any in a match through that method I am almost able to get an alliance opining with I havrnt broken an allaince and you know that it tends to work

Ehsan Honary   By Ehsan Honary @ Saturday, November 22, 2008 7:06 AM
That's the way to go Brandon. It's certainly magical when people know they can rely on you and you get a lot more mileage out of it, much the same as in real life.

Thanks for the comment

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I am a board game and Risk game enthusiast. I like thinking and talking about strategy in games which has led me to the creation of this website. Although Risk is a classic, I feel one can never get tired of playing this game. Read about what I think of the game and I am always eager to know what you think.

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