People Want You to Confirm What They Already Believe to Be True. But, Do You?

Have you ever had a nugget of wisdom that caused you to change the course of your life? Or a tidbit of information that resulted in questioning everything you thought you knew?

Yea, that happened to me. Which is why we are here today. Here’s the tidbit of widsom that I learned that caused me to change direction…

People want you to confirm what they already believe to be true. 

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s talk about how we got here.

How this lesson came into play

Almost 18 years ago, I had a dream of becoming a dietitian. It was the type of thing that I knew would take a while to come to fruition. But, I was determined to change the world through food.

No joke, I seriously thought I could amass an army of dietitians to change the conversation around nutrition. And it would create much needed alterations. 

Flash forward all these years later and you could say I’ve given up on that dream. Or, better said —

I’ve had a change of heart.

What happened? When I first started pursuing my dietitian credentials, I had a belief system that people were misinformed about nutrition. What they really needed was to have access to accurate information. And, given ways to put that information into action — without overcomplicating it.

There’s a part of me that still believes some of this to be true (or at least it’s part of a larger problem). But, I’ve since learned more about the human mind and how we operate as a society. Back to the tidbit of wisdom that changed everything for me.

People want you to confirm what they already believe to be true.

This all goes back to a book I read several years ago written by Seth Godin, All Marketers Are Liars Storytellers. Over the years, I’ve reference this one quote in the book so many times I could almost recite the sentence verbatim. Yes, I even have the page number memorized.

“…the best stories agree with what the audience already believes and makes the members of the audience feel smart and secure when reminded how right they were in the first place.”

Seth Godin, All Marketers Are Storytellers (pg 13)

In other words, the most viral messages are ones that people already believe to be true. People want to feel smart, they want to believe they already know the answer.

So, my belief system of thinking people just needed accurate information with actionable steps to implement it, well, that wasn’t entirely the case.

It kinda made me realize that the countless ads on TV, news segments, and social media influencers had the upper hand when it came to disemonating nutrition information.

Why’s that? Well, they sell the magic bullet. They sell you the one last pill (or diet) you’ll need for the rest of your life. And, that magic bullet confirms their belief. They need to find the one magic bullet that will finally be the thing that works for them.

However, the truth of the matter is there is no one single remedy to anything in life, let alone health and nutrition related concerns. That’s not a sexy message though. And, doesn’t feed the dream that people want to believe. 

Confirmation Bias

The concept of wanting our beliefs to be confirmed isn’t far fetched. In fact, there’s an official term for it; it’s called confirmation bias. Here’s the defintion according to the American Psychological Association:

Confirmation bias – the tendency to gather evidence that confirms preexisting expectations, typically by emphasizing or pursuing supporting evidence while dismissing or failing to seek contradictory evidence.

How does this relate to my former dreams as a dietitian? 

Well, it made me wonder if I could actually change the word of nutrition the way I had imagined. It called into question basically everything I had previously believed. And, while I still believe it could be possible, the journey would be completely different than I had originally imagined all those years ago.

Side note, this is not the only reason I dissolved my private practice and started Bring About Happy. But, it was one of many contributing factors. 

The fact that people are convinced they already know the truth, they just want it to be confirmed made me realize something that had perpelexed me for a long time.

In all the years I worked as a dietitian, I would constantly get asked questions about the latest diet trend, supplement, or health “hack.” People wanted to know what I thought about the current diet trends and products. 

Since I hadn’t made the connection between confirmation bias and how that played into people asking my option, something odd happened. Here’s what it was…

I’d give them my honest opinion, my uncensored thoughts and opinions — based on research.

I mean, they asked me for a reason. Why would I not tell them the truth? Right?!

But, my response wasn’t met with the reaction that I would have expected. 

After people heard my true, uncensored opinion about the question they asked, they seemed to be upset.

This confused me. They asked for my professional opinion, but when I gave it to them, why were they upset by it?

My thoughts would spiral…

  • What was I doing wrong?
  • Was I not a “good” dietitian?
  • Why would the truth cause such a negative reaction?

After reading Seth Godin’s book, it suddenly made sense. I finally put together the pieces:

When people asked my opinion, they wanted me, and my professional opinion, to confirm their beliefs.

As Seth Godin put it, they wanted to feel as though they were smart and confirmation they were right. Since I was a dietitian, they wanted my authority to be on their side.

More importantly, they did not want to feel as though they had been duped by a health business, nutrition product, or diet guru/influencer. They did not want to feel stupid.

Unfortunately, my answers to nutrition questions rarely confirmed what people believed to already be true.

In fact, my response to other people’s questions almost always challenged what they knew.

You can say, I’ve frequently been the barer of bad news.

You’ve heard the colloquialism, “don’t shoot the messenger.” Well, I was the messenger time and time again. That is, until I finally made the connection stated above — People wanted me to confirm what they already believed to be true.

So, after years of feeling like I was constantly hitting my head against a wall when answering people’s questions, it was time to change my approach.

Let’s pretend we are listening to one of those conversations playing out in the text below.

  • Them: What do you do?
  • Me: I’m a dietitian.
  • Them: Oh, really. That’s good to know. I have been wondering if this {new trendy supplement name} will help me with {this ailment}.
  • Me: That is a great question. Before I answer, can I ask you a couple of questions first?
  • Them: Sure. What is it?

This is where my strategy is completely different than before…

  • Me: Do you want me to confirm what you already believe about {supplement name}? As in, to tell you that it will most certainly help you with the problem you described? Or, do you want my honest opinion, even if it doesn’t support what you already believe to be true.
  • Them: {Pauses to think through the question}

Apply this Concept in Real Life

I’ll never forget the first time I finally asked these questions before interjecting my true, uncensored thoughts. It was a completely different conversation that I had for years before this. 

The person asking me questions was a regular at a local coffee shop. He wanted to know what I thoughts about supplements from a particular multi-level marketing (MLM) company.

After he asked my opinion, my response was something like,

“Do you want me to confirm what you already believe to be true. Or, do you want my honest opinion, even if it doesn’t support what you currently think or believe?”

He eventually ended up responding to the questions with this, “In that case, I want your honest opinion.”

In my past experiences, people who sell nutrition-related MLM products like to ask me questions about their products. I think they want me to support the products so when they talk with potential customers they can cite their conversation with me — a dietitian/nutrition professional. I imaged it would go something like this, “Well, I recently had this conversation with a dietitian. She said that…”

In my conversation with the coffee shop local, he was asking because he had a family member selling shake supplements through a MLM company.

While he had told me he wanted me to tell him my honest opinion, he was suprised by my response. And, later realized later in our conversation that he may have unconsciously wanted me to confirm what he already believed to be true.

Despite the fact my reponse challenged what he already believed, the conversation that followed was completely different that any other I had in the past. In fact, it seemed to go in a more positive direction. He was more open and accepting of my opinion contradicting what he had previously been told.

TL;DR — Too Long; Didn’t Read (Summary)

In the world of nutrition, there is a lot of misinformation floating around. So, to constantly be the person with an opposing view does not make you the most popular person in the room.

People don’t like to be told they are wrong.

You may not care about being popular and that’s totally fine. But, if you are wondering how to change the conversation when people ask your advice, an opinion, or thoughts, hopefully the conversation in this blog post will help you out.

Next time someone asks your opinion, ask them these questions first. Especially if your answer doesn’t confirm what they already believe to be true.

Do you want me to confirm what you already believe?

Or, do you want my honest opinion, even if it doesn’t support what your beliefs?

XOXO Kristi
XOXO Kristi

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