How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Tolerance and Action in Belief
| So what?
Belief is a curious thing. When we believe things, we assume them to be true. Yet how certain is that faith? A person truly comfortable in their belief will likely be highly tolerant of those who believe differently.
A secondary question is that when we are confronted with people or things that challenge or beliefs, what do we do? Two basic responses to this are to either behave actively, doing something positive, or passively. This gives us four types of response when we face a belief challenge.
Many people want to believe but have doubts. As a result, challenge can be
very scary as it threatens to demolish the belief and hence all the benefits the
belief brings. For example religious belief offers much comfort in knowing there
is someone 'up there' who cares about us, and that when we die, we will not
cease to exist.
Intolerant passive: Avoidant
The intolerant passive person acts like they believe, but shies away from contrary argument. They effectively feel they are faced by something they cannot out-argue, so they try to avoid any such confrontation.
A typical passive response is a simple denial, pronouncing other beliefs or contrary arguments to be simply wrong and refusing to listen or argue further. Passive intolerant people will even try to avoid such situations altogether, typically huddling into like-minded communities. Being thus insulated they can depersonalize and demonize the distant 'unbelievers'.
Intolerant active: Confrontational
While some hide from unbelievers, others use a more active approach, to defend their belief, attacking other beliefs or attempting to convert others.
Defending one's own belief typically uses some combination of reference, reason and evidence. The reference approach assumes a third party or book to be wholly correct.
Attacking the belief of others may seek to use reason or evidence to prove the belief to be unsafe or wholly untrue. The attack may also be against any reference that the other belief uses, discrediting it in some way. There might even be a direct attack on any person espousing other beliefs, framing them as misguided, foolish or just plain bad.
A more positive approach to intolerant action is in attempting to convert others to one's own set of beliefs. This may be done aggressively or persuasively. Aggressive conversion typically promises bad things if the person does not conform, such as burning in hell or being socially ostracized. More persuasive methods may promote benefits, such as being loved, or may take a reasoning approach.
People who are tolerant of other beliefs are usually comfortable in their own beliefs. They do not fear the other beliefs or see them as a threat. Lacking fear, they are not affected by fight-or-flight reactions.
Tolerant passive: Laissez faire
Tolerant passive people have a 'live and let live' philosophy. The are comfortable in their own beliefs and feel no need to avoid, attack it try co convert others.
They do not judge others. They accept that there can be many beliefs and that there need not be 'one truth' . This leads to a tolerant position where other beliefs are not considered to be wrong or bad.
Tolerant active: Sociable
People who are comfortable in their beliefs may be curious about other systems of beliefs to which other people adhere. They may alternatively just be accepting and sociable. In any case, they actively seek the company of a diverse range of other people and seek to learn more about their beliefs.
In this, they do not push their own beliefs and will typically only answer questions about them. Paradoxically, in doing so, they are good ambassadors for their faith and are more likely to convert others as compared with a more pushy approach.
Understand where other people are with their strong beliefs, such as regarding religion or politics, through their tolerance of other views and how they consequently respond. Use this understanding to shape the way you seek to change their mind. For example converting an intolerant-active person may require either a greater force or subtle guidance. On thee other hand, working with a tolerant-passive person may need a more quietly social style.