📄 What to do when "the face ain't listening"

So you’re talking to someone whom you’d like to buy in to your idea - buyer, spouse, team mate, etc - and you realise:

They’re not buying in. No matter what you tell them, they don’t seem to be enrolling in your idea.

So you try a different approach, different logic, another kind of appeal to their intelligence and sense of reason…

But nope, no cigar. They just don’t seem to get the sense and usefulness of that thing you’re trying to have them see. You're talking to the hand, and the face ain’t listening.

When that happens, you need to realise that you’re trying to reason with the other person's emotional world, and that's something that will never work.

Their emotional senses are looking for the stuff that feels good, and you’re here, trying to appeal to their intellect, intelligence and insight.

Obviously, that will go nowhere: the other person’s emotional world doesn’t understand stuff - no matter how compelling, logical, and sensible your argumentation may be. Emotions are not meant to understand things, because that's not what they are for.

If you’ve ever thought to yourself “But why don’t they see my point, how come they don't agree that what I'm saying makes sense?", then you’ve been trying to reason with their emotions.

And you can explain until the cows come home, but the rational mind won’t deal with information if the emotional world doesn’t feel it yet.

The other person’s emotional world is large, mostly subconscious, and it’s got power to overrule the mind, because the subconscious is tasked with keeping us safe, watching out for threats. It knows more than the mind does, it intuits - and it’s a paranoid gatekeeper.

When something looks, feels, or sounds like a potential threat, the subconscious considers it best to err on the safe side, and act as if there is an actual threat. In terms of evolutionary psychology, that's how the subconscious helps us live another day.

Now obviously, it's illogical that they'd feel some sort of unconscious threat: after all, you're not trying to harm anyone, or force anything on them - but that lack of logic is exactly what the irrational nature of emotions is about. Logic is simply a currency that the subconscious won't accept, unless the situation also feels right.

So. If ever you find yourself reasoning with someone who’s just not getting it, seeing it, not buying in to your idea and vision:


Something in their subconscious triggered an emotional defence or disconnect, and hammering your point is only going to strengthen the defence.

Stop, and instead get that person to talk. Ask questions such as "What’s on your mind" or "What does this situation look like to you" or "Are there any concerns you have about any of this" or "If you were master of the universe, how would you solve or arrange this?"

The actual question you ask depends on th we situation, but the important thing is that you get the other person to share their view, the vision that they’re working with.

With a bit of luck, you’ll uncover the reason why their emotions block understanding or adoption - which gives that person the validation that their concerns are valid, and that will help them trust you enough to at least try and see - i.e. understand - the sense of what you’re trying to say.

In short: never try to reason with emotion, because it’s a ‘face’ that will never listen to reason.

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