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The Power in Changing Your Mind

Most business leaders have gotten where they are because of their unwavering belief in what their business offers, and themselves. Sticking to your guns can become instinctual; wavering on your ideas or changing your mind on a concept can seem like a weakness in a pitch or negotiation. However, new research has shown just the opposite to be true.

According to research referenced in a recent Harvard Business Review article, the tendency of leaders to “not back down” in the middle of negotiations and pitches despite hearing evidence that contradicts their stance can turn out negative results depending on the context.

The research found that changing your mind acted as a sign of intelligence, which can be the trait most important for you to show.

Earlier on in your career, proving yourself right might have been your biggest asset. But as you gain more success and reach new benchmarks in your industry, being right begins to take a backseat to being adaptable.

Potential partners and investors are probably speaking with you not so much to understand what you do, but more or less to understand who you are and whether you and your business are right for them to put money into.

Digging one’s heels in when faced with evidence to the contrary will almost always make one look less intelligent, and could also suggest other unsightly attributes, like pigheadedness and, maybe even worse, delusion.

This latest research does find that sticking to your guns no matter what in a discussion does have one positive side effect, and it could be the entire reason why psychologically, people in business are hard-wired not to back down: it portrays confidence.

The real question is, based on your audience, which attribute would you like to demonstrate more? Confidence or intelligence? Looking back to the study, the results are split.

There are occasions where looking confident despite losing some smart points could be helpful: the study cited people in job interviews for certain roles that needed more brawn than brains could benefit from being stubborn.

The study was also quick to note that for each scenario that rewarded stubbornness, there was an opposite scenario that would not (same job interview situation, but for a job in IT or engineering, where your level of intelligence matters).

The last curveball this study threw at us was that most people are very self-aware about this.

When asked, most people were able to predict the results of the study, accurately guessing that not changing your mind made you seem confident, but less intelligent with the opposite holding true. So, after all of that, why do people still behave the way they do?

The study offers a few possible answers, but in the end, chalks it up to humans being odd and unpredictable. The best potential answer is the simplest one: changing your mind is sort of embarrassing. And people tend to want to avoid being embarrassed more than they want to avoid anything else.

Consider all of this the next time you find yourself in a negotiation of any sort. We would probably suggest the best approach is the most honest - if you’re faced with new information that would cause you to change your mind, then do it.

Or at least suggest that you’re willing to consider other possibilities and find ways to adapt. If you change your mind with confidence, maybe you can find yourself in as close to a win in this peculiar situation as possible.

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