Can You Change Your Mind?

As the minimum wage debate heats up, both sides need to remain open-minded

Back Commentary Jul 1, 2015 By Christine Calvin

When was the last time you changed your way of thinking on a major issue? Have you ever? In April of this year, “This American Life” ran a story called “The Incredible Rarity of Changing Your Mind.”In the story’s introduction, Ira Glass asks the question: “When it comes to major issues — like climate change, gun control, abortion rights … do you know anybody that has changed their mind?”

Probably not. What’s more, the so-called backfire effect shows that when confronted with evidence disproving our beliefs, we just dig in and believe them more. This is because people tend to make decisions based on emotion: an issue is introduced, an emotional connection is made and then the evidence is evaluated. This explains society’s allegiance to their cable news network of choice.

Once a decision has been made, people tend to either disregard contrary evidence or mentally manipulate that evidence to support their stance. In other words, when people are wrong about something, the more evidence you present against them, the less likely they are to change their minds.

Case in point is the minimum wage debate stirring across the country and in communities throughout the Capital Region. Considering the strength of opinions behind this topic, I’ve heard almost no one present persuasive arguments, new ideas or robust data of any kind to broaden the scope beyond hard-line rhetoric.I would challenge you to be more thoughtful in your approach as you engage with business professionals, lawmakers and employees on this issue.

See if you can get through your conversation without using:

  • Absurd business argument: “Increasing the minimum wage kills jobs!” or,
  • Absurd labor argument: “The average fast-food worker makes $10 an hour, but the average fast-food CEO makes $5,859 an hour. Not fair!”

Both of these arguments are shallow and short-sighted, lacking broad-minded analysis based on large pools of comprehensive data. But more than that, they lack creative, innovative thinking. Digging in on either side is a sure indication of an unwillingness to think strategically about new opportunities to do business in a way that advances outcomes for companies and employees alike.

We need to enter this conversation recognizing that minimum wage jobs were never meant to support families, while acknowledging that we have constructed a society in which they now do. In a region where growth and prosperity are top of mind, we must consider the impact wages have on the loyalty and productivity of our employees. Will you consider that you may have closed your mind to viable ways to innovate around this situation?

In this month’s issue, we’ve taken a look at employers that have improved employee engagement, turnover rates, customer satisfaction and — yes — profits by increasing their wages and rethinking their business models (“Better Pay for Better Profits,” page 60). Companies that strengthen their operations and motivate employees with better pay, decent benefits and predictable schedules are out-competing their rivals.

Which brings us back to changing minds. How do you get someone to come around to your way of thinking? It takes time. And it takes a personal connection. And it takes opening your own mind first. Consider how much time you’ve given to researching facts that challenge your position. Have you considered what’s accurate from the other side? Have you researched the facts that are being overstated or misconstrued on your own side?

The minimum wage debate won’t soon be over, and millions of Californians will be impacted by the coming changes. Let’s educate ourselves fully and begin looking for innovative ways of structuring our companies so they can better serve society — and your bottom line.