An article in Inc. magazine back in November talked about how Elon Musk, skeptical of a lot of COVID-19 information, asked why he got a test that was positive and a test that was negative at the same time. He reached out to an assistant professor of epidemiology at Harvard, Michael Mina. Justin Bariso, who writes about emotional intelligence, noted that Mina’s response to Musk was a textbook example of how to communicate and persuade someone. Here are five ways you can actually persuade someone online.

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  1. Start on a positive note. Validate the person’s position and set the tone for a respectful conversation.
  2. Show empathy for the person you’re trying to persuade. Try to understand where they’re coming from and why, so you can better address their concerns and show you’re not against the person.
  3. Don’t set yourself up as a judge that is the “all-knowing master” of the topic. Explain your points simply leaving the least amount of room for misinterpretation.
  4. Genuinely try to help. If the person needs more time or attention to understand what you’re saying, give that. If they need other resources to corroborate you, provide them. If you can’t do that, you probably can’t persuade them.
  5. Assume the best. However the person you’re trying to persuade acts, assume they really do want to understand, and treat them as such. This can change their behavior more than arguing a side point.

How did Mina do following these points? An hour after his responses, Musk retweeted the entire conversation writing, “Worth reading this thread if you’re curious about rona testing.” They might work for you too.

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