How to change anyone’s mind, anytime you like

Recently we learned that Palestinian computer engineer, Khalil Shreateh, hacked Mark Zuckerberg’s personal Facebook wall and posted a message.   In terms of degrees of difficulty, making this happen is a bit like Banksy managing to sneak in and stencil an epigram in the Queen’s private loo at Buckingham palace.

It’s easy to dismiss Shreateh as a cyber pest.  But this story goes way deeper than that.  In fact he was trying to be heard, and seeing if Zuckerberg and those around him were open to change.


It emerged that Shreateh had sent messages to various engineers at Facebook saying that he had found a security glitch, and he therefore deserved his $500 prize (Facebook has paid out over $1m to people in the public who have found and reported glitches).  However according to Shreateh, he wasn’t taken seriously, and thus never got his prize.  In fact Facebook didn’t see it as a bug at all – so were either dismissive, or simply ignorant.


So, he did what he felt was the only way to get their attention, which was to hack Zuckerberg’s personal account and write this message on his wall:  “Dear Mark Zuckerberg.  First sorry for breaking your privacy and post to your wall, I has (sic) no other choice to make after all the reports i sent to Facebook team.”


You can read the full account of the story here.  But here’s what is fascinating:  this story almost perfectly mirrors some of the latest thinking around how to make people change.


How effective are you at creating change, either in someone’s mind, or at an organisational level?  Chances are, if you are super-effective at creating change, you are in a high profile, potentially highly paid job.  Change-makers don’t just fall out of the sky – they are some of the most highly treasured people in society.


An analogy for change

If you have read a book called SWITCH – How to Change Things When Change is Hard, you will know about the analogy of the Elephant and the Rider.  Authors Chip and Dan Heath use the analogy right throughout this book – they in turn borrowed it from a book called The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt.  The analogy is one of the most interesting and relevant I have come across, and wanted to share it with you now.

So, imagine an Elephant, with a Rider on its back, moving down a path together.  The Rider wants to change direction.  Who wins out of the rider or the elephant?  The person with the reins, or the animal that weighs 8 tonnes?


The answer is of course the elephant.  The rider might win 90% of the time, but when the elephant ultimately chooses a direction, there is nothing the rider can do.


The analogy marries together with the left and right side of our brains.


The Rider represents our rational side.  This is the longer-term thinking, planning beyond the moment.


The Elephant represents our emotional side. This is the lazy and skittish side that looks for quick results over long term payoff.  For example, while our Rider plans to go to the gym 5 times per week for 70 minutes each time, the Elephant ensures we go to the gym once, and we eat some biscuits for good measure!


That’s not to say the Elephant is the bad guy here.  The Elephant is the reason we are passionate, and proud, and are able to appeal to others.  The Elephant, in short, really does make things happen – for better or for worse!


The point made by the authors in the book is that it’s difficult to motivate others without both in concert.  You need to DIRECT THE RIDER, and MOTIVATE THE ELEPHANT.   (There is actually a third element too, which is revealed in our free Special Report – see below for details).


Marketing expert Seth Godin agrees.   In a recent newsletter he said the following about appealing to the rational side of the mind, which is worth reprinting in full:

  • Your first mistake might be assuming that people are rational
  • Your second mistake could be assuming that people are eager for change.
  • And the marketer’s (communicator’s) third mistake is assuming that once someone knows things the way you know them, they will choose what you chose.


The point is:  if you really want people to change, you have to construct your message carefully.  The human brain dives into the rational reasons first, which is fine.  However if you don’t motivate the Elephant, you risk being put into the basket of “a good thing to do – one day.”  Something to think about next time you need real change to happen!


That’s all we have time for in this blog article.  However you are welcome to request our 2000 word Special Report, simply by emailing us at and requesting it in the subject line.  This Special Report gives you:

  1. Two examples about how to bring the Elephant and the Rider to life (a sales example and a non-sales example)
  2. The third part of the Elephant and Rider model
  3. An insight into brain science as it relates to making a buying decision
  4. A case study about changing the market from the inside


In the meantime, if you haven’t had some of our training yet, what’s stopping you?  Call up one of our training consultants right now and let us help you achieve your sales, business or change goals.  Also, if you haven’t signed up to our free newsletter, please visit One Minute Pause (and recommend it to your friends!).

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