No… you’re wrong!

Sometimes the temptation is almost irresistible… to tell the other person just how wrong they are, that is.

I experienced it this morning and, this time at least, I did resist the temptation and decided to write this blog instead.

Pass on the word

It seemed like a good idea (it still is, actually). I’d received one of those ‘sponsor me’ messages from two people who are raising money for a village in India. The target is £600 and when I looked at their site they weren’t making much progress and had reached less than 10% of their target.

So I thought why not tell people who follow me on Twitter about the project? Which I did, pointing out that the cost of just two cappuccinos from each ‘follower’ would enable them to reach their target for the charity.

Within less than two minutes of posting the tweet I received a one-liner reply ‘Charity begins at home!!’

I’m all right Jack, pull up the ladder!

My first response was amazement that someone could have such an insular and selfish attitude. We’re not talking here about a major contribution – after all, two cappuccinos would cost around a fiver here in the UK (€ 5.6 if you live in the other part of Europe or $7.6 if you live on the other side of the pond)!

My next response was to want to ‘show him the light’ and point out that his attitude was in line with the old wartime saying ‘I’m all right Jack, pull up the ladder!’

(If you’re unfamiliar with the phrase it refers to the person who has just been rescued from the sea telling the rescuers that, now that he is safely in the boat, they can pull up the ladder, leave the others in the sea, and head for the safety of shore.)

Beliefs are made stronger by arguing with them

Confronting a person’s strongly held beliefs very, very rarely results in a change of heart or mind. This isn’t a brand new NLP insight, either: the old saying ‘a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still’ goes back to at least the 1700’s.

Arguing does not change beliefs. Quite the opposite: the more we argue against someone’s belief the stronger we make their belief!

This might be worth remembering the next time your lunch or evening meal is interrupted by doorstep missionaries who’s views you do not share. Rather than waste time arguing, thank them for their interest in your welfare, gently close the door, and return to your meal.

Because arguing will not only ensure your meal gets cold but will do them a favour… At the end of the discussion they will leave with their belief in their faith further reinforced as a result of arguing with you!

No response

So I didn’t attempt to changes that person’s beliefs. Instead I contented myself with the simple response ‘that’s the spirit’. To which he immediately, and within less than a minute, responded ‘why should we!!’ which sort of confirmed my hunch about him and his beliefs – and his mood.

In my experience people who quote ‘charity begins at home!’ usually are of the ‘I’m alright Jack’ persuasion. So, not wishing to further strengthen his prejudices, I simply blocked his access to my account.

And it still is a good idea

Incidentally, although only a few have so far taken up my Twitter suggestion, their sponsorship call is working and they have already more than doubled the pledged sponsorship money.

And the charity? SOS Children’s Villages is the world’s largest orphan and abandoned children’s charity.  They care for 78,000 children in 124 countries worldwide.


  1. Russell on 5th May 2010 at 12:53 PM

    An interesting thought and a good way of getting rid of unwanted visitors quickly!

    I share Reg’s surprise and rejection of the selfish reaction to his suggestion. However, I wonder how I would react when the other person’s belief conflicts with a strongly held belief of my own, especially if it concerns something important to me or with which I have an emotional attachment. A couple of examples:

    – Bringing up children: my wife and I sometimes disagree on what and how much advice to give to our son who has recently been trying to decide whether to continue with his university studies or to change courses. I am sure that we both act with what we believe to his best interests in mind but we reach different conclusions. Equally we are each believe that our own solution is best for him.

    – In business – I work together with a partner. When we prepare a proposal for project with a client we discuss in broad terms the desired outcome and then one of us writes a draft. We then discuss the draft and work together a final proposal for presentation to the client. This works fine when we agree but there are times when we each believe a different approach to be the most appropriate and spend a lot of time discussing (and defending) our own different points of view.

    I am a firm believer in “two heads are better than one” and “none of us is as smart as all of us” and usually am able to find a mutually acceptable outcome. However, I sometimes come away from these discussions with the feeling that I have spent a lot of time going nowhere or that I have accepted a solution which I don’t fully support to put an end to the discussion and move on.

    I wonder how others deal with similar situations where the outcome touches the levels of beliefs and values or even in important relationships what we identify with. I’m particularly interested in how to get the best out of all the possible solutions.

  2. Reg on 5th May 2010 at 8:40 PM

    That’s a deep one, Russell! We were discussing this idea of belief differences at NLP Core Skills today, too.

    My take on it: If I believe something strongly I can be disappointed or surprised or shocked or whatever when I encounter others who strongly hold different views.

    There’s nothing to stop me attempting to ‘enlighten’ them, either. In fact, that’s quite a normal response.

    But we do, in my opinion, have to respect their right to hold (by our standards) strange or unacceptable views – and maybe simply decide there is no value in continuing to relate with them.

    The differences in opinion about how to bring up adult children… definitely a thorny one. Question is which approach will encourage/elicit autonomy and self-reliance and the other skills necessarey for a fulfilling adult life… Hmmmm.

  3. Clare Denyer on 6th May 2010 at 12:15 PM

    Hmmm, I feel kind of “yes and no” on this one! Sometimes it’s a huge relief and very empowering not to feel the urge to “tell them” but just allow them to have a right to their views, shrug and move on (or in the case of Twitter – block them and move on!!). Other times I want to ask about a million questions to see how that belief formed for them! I might not agree with them at the end, but you find out some fascinating stuff – providing of course you are able to establish enough rapport despite differing opinions! It then forms another little notch in my ability to see things from another point of view. Occasionally of course NLP deserts me and I roll my eyes and mutter “idiot” under my breath before moving on 😉 also quite empowering!

  4. Reg on 6th May 2010 at 8:55 PM

    Hi Clare: loved the final bit about NLP deserting you – I think most of us are all too familiar with such moments.

    As to the bit about enquiring further… Yes, I agree and often do that. The ‘but’ that you couldl hear coming up at the end of that sentance is “but I need to know there is at least a tiny bit of common ground or that they are relatively reasonable.”

  5. Charlotte on 9th May 2010 at 10:14 AM

    I usualy read you guys, not always have time or patience to pull out a good comment, but in this case I had to stop and say somethig.
    I learned the bad way that if you argue someone’s beliefs you only reenforce them.
    I was not familiar with the”I’m all right Jack, pull up the ladder! ” phrase and i think it describes perfectly selfish people.
    Keep up the good work

  6. Reg on 9th May 2010 at 10:21 AM

    Hi Charlotte: Thanks for the comment. I think the ‘I’m alright, Jack’ phrase may have originated among British seamen during the Second World War.

    And, yes, I think it’s a great description of a particularly selfish and self-centred attitude 🙂