Countering conspiracy theories is never an easy task. It is actually easier to ignore them than trying to debunk them. But then, you might find yourself in a situation, where you have to refute one conspiracy theory or the other but you find it that hard to achieve. The major reason countering a conspiracy theory is difficult is because its believers are emotionally attached to it. Anyone that attempts to counter beliefs faces resistance and, sometimes, violence. This is why you should learn the best way to counter conspiracy theories without putting your life, jobs, relationships, and properties on the line.
There may be several ways of countering conspiracy theories but analytic thinking is the best so far. Critically evaluating what the theorist said and the evidence he projected have been helpful in containing such malicious theories. But then, the problem arises when you attempt to debunk assumptions before ardent believers even if you have facts to back up your arguments. This is why you have to be tactful in your approach.
Steps to Countering Conspiracy Theories Safely
Even though you have facts to prove a certain assumption is false or unfounded, you don’t need to project them headlong. Any attempt to do will make your targets create cognitive dissonance and ignore you or, worse, attack you. When you find yourself in such a situation, consider taking the following steps:
a. Pretend to Seek Information: Make sure you never revealed your true intentions to these believers. Give them the impression that you are seeking information on the theory because you are considering joining its number of believers. With this, you will be welcomed into the circle without hitches.
b. Be Empathetic: Many people hold onto conspiracy theories that give them hope and consolation. There are people that cling to the ones that absolve them from their mistakes or put blames on others. For people such as these, it will be almost impossible to convince them that what they believe in are lies. Considering that they will be disorganised by such changes makes it important that you show empathy for their predicament so you can see reasons with them. Apart from that, when these people see you as a “friend”, who understands their challenges, they will easily open up to you and allow you in. Resistance is less when empathy is established.
c. Make them Talk about the Theory: There are two things you stand to gain when you encourage your targets to talk about the concerned conspiracy theory. The first one is that they give you insights into what they believe the theorist is out to achieve. The second one is that while they present the premise of this theory, they will realise that it has some unexplainable loopholes, which they couldn’t fill with existing facts. The discovery of these questionable gaps will encourage the concerned persons to start asking questions about their beliefs and ideologies. If they fail to discover this fault, you will have enough information, which will be of great importance in the next level.
d. Acknowledge the Truths in the Theory: Most conspiracy theories have atoms of truths on which the lies are woven. You need to acknowledge these truths and give reasons and evidence to back up your claims. In a situation where the theory is a blatant lie, you have to admit, with examples, that some assumptions are true. Remember you are not to tell these people that what they believed in were lies; they have to discover that by themselves.
e. Ask Critical Questions: Remember you are the seeker here. You have to pretend you didn’t know the assumptions were lies so you can use that as a reason to ask critical questions. Remember you have to ask non-suspecting questions that will make your targets use their analytic thinking while answering them. Ask them questions that will make them see the futility of their beliefs and why they should abandon them. Here, turn your facts, especially the ones that came up in (c), into questions and allow them to provide explanations. After this discussion, they will go back to review their beliefs and ideologies.
Remember you cannot refute conspiracy theories with arguments. Even when you have facts to back up your claims, the theory adopters will resist whatever changes you attempt to bring into their lives. Hence, to reduce the spread of such theories, you need to employ tact to prevent aggression and dissonance.