The Toughest Form of Resistance to Change “You’re Not Wrong, You’re Evil”

Monday, March 12th, 2007

Shankar Vedantam states that large numbers of people on both sides claim to know the motives of people who disagree with them. Once again, Vedantam’s regular Monday column, Department of Human Behavior in The Washington Post, provides insights that can help those of who want to lead change effectively.


In today’s column, “Disagree About Iraq? You’re Not Just Wrong, You’re Evil,” he cites research that shows that when we feel strongly about something, we think we know why other people hold the positions they do on issues. And we believe that those positions are almost always ill-informed, sinister, and stupid.


He writes, “When was the last time you heard people say that those who disagree with them on the Iraq War are well-meaning, smart, informed, and thoughtful?”


He quotes Glenn D. Reeder, a social psychologist, “We are really bad about putting ourselves in other people’s places and looking at the world the way they look at it? . . .We find it difficult to grant that other people come to their conclusions in good faith if they reach a conclusion that is different than ours.” (Italics mine.)


Please read that last sentence again. That is one of the biggest challenges to building support for our ideas. We assume that those who disagree with us and our ideas are acting in bad faith. Sound familiar? Unfortunately, it does to me.


His column is well worth reading. (

P.S. For those of you who know my work, the issue he writes about is what I call Level 3 resistance. For more on the three levels read: