People change their mind.  People you don’t want to change, change their mind.

You’ve been there before.   You are negotiating a complex business deal and moving point-by-point to get the person on the other side of the table to sign off on the components of the deal.

“Does that work for you?” you find yourself asking.

And with a nod and a handshake you find yourself standing up from the table with a successful deal negotiated.

Only later you learn that the deal you thought you had wrapped up isn’t really closed after all.

“We’ve changed our mind,” says your client on the other end of the telephone call.  As you listen in disbelief, anger and outrage rise to the surface.

You can’t believe it.  “What happened?” you stammer in semi-protest.

Thoughts of lost revenue and hard answers you have to give to bosses are a swift punch to your gut.  “What really happened?” you find yourself thinking.

It’s overwhelming when people change their mind.

Psychologists tell us that any time someone in a community begins to shift their thinking that the group as a whole experiences significant stress.  It’s difficult to handle for everyone involved.  It’s more than just business deals too.

Business, religion, politics, marriage, finances, personal relationships — these matters disrupt our sense of self.   When others question their long held opinions about life, we begin to question our own beliefs.  That creates a temporary sense of uncertainty and confusion.  That’s the science behind what you are feeling.

You panic when people change their mind.  That emotion is natural — but frustrating and confusing.  If you’re not careful you’re quick to be distracted and demotivated.

It’s important to understand why people change their opinion.

Ultimately, what you realize is that even though the topics and situations are different, your opinions change just is often, and just as seemingly random, as those around you.

But you have to be aware of what is really going .

So, why do people change their mind:

  1. Their mind wasn’t made up in the first place. — They are still on the fence.  Sometimes “leaning your way” can seem like agreement.  When they lean back you realize that you hadn’t done your job convincing them.
  2. New life experiences give them a new perspective. — New experiences, good and bad, provide more options.  More education and different friends and locations can easily shape a new perspective.  And it doesn’t take much.
  3. The chaos around the discussion makes a decision confusing. — There aren’t just two sides of an issues.  There are endless perspectives.  Sometimes after looking at all of that, a clear choice becomes no choice at all.  Doing nothing is easier than risking making the wrong choice.
  4. They are under physical or emotional pressure to make that decision. — Someone is twisting their arm.  Sometimes literally.  An angry spouse or business partner can be more convincing that your logic.
  5. They don’t like you or want to help you. — It’s always personal.  In business and in life, people are influenced by those who lead or influence widely held opinions.  It can be easy to dislike a “thought leader”  and in parallel reject their line of thinking.

Think about it more practically.

Every day you’re learning something new that will impact the decisions you make tomorrow.

It might be noble to declare that your opinions never change, but that’s probably not even close to true.  Even if you don’t share your changed opinion with anyone else, that doesn’t mean you haven’t made up your mind in a new direction.

The solution then is not to call people who change their mind a liar, but to assume they are doing the exact same thing you are wired to do.  To evolve. To keep learning.

It can be confusing when you’re not sure why an opinion has changed.

You can feel hurt or disrespected, but perhaps a changed mind is an opportunity for you to learn.  A chance to see intimately into the minds of those brave enough to share their own confusion and confliction.

This is the same whether you are negotiating a business deal or debating a hotly contested cultural issue.

Refuse to panic.  Pursue excellence.  Think for yourself.  Decry cruelty.

And when things change, relentlessly examine every opportunity to be amazing.