I READ A LOT of blogs. Often the writers tend to be metaphorically shouting, "The sky is falling!" In delivering a piece of news, some will present it in a way that seems to say, "You see, Islamic supremacists are taking over the world and nobody notices or cares! We're doomed!"
And I have often found myself doing the same thing in conversations with people. Haven't you? Why are we doing this?
When I pay attention to my motivation while I'm doing it, I seem to be frustrated at my listener's lack of appreciation for the scale and significance of the situation. So I try to arrest her attention with how horrible, dangerous, and scary things are.
The technique works in a way, but you can go too far with this. When you use scare tactics, you can see some listeners look at you like maybe you're unbalanced.
So on the one hand, you want people to take the threat seriously and stop assuming somebody else is taking care of it.
But on the other hand, if you go too far, you wind up as a Prophet of Doom, spreading defeatism, which is not good either. People will turn themselves off and turn away from your information if they think the battle has already been lost. This subject is so big and so disconcerting, some people will TRY to find a way to ignore it.
But you can make people understand the danger of our situation without demoralizing them by focusing on what can be done, on what others are already doing, on explaining why it must be done, and why we need every participant we can get.
Alternate between fear and motivation. And call them to action.
Walk that fine line with people between anxiety and determination. Recognize that they are not getting this information in their news sources. Recognize that they have a lot of cultural barriers to getting this information, and a lot of personal motivation driving them to avoid grasping the scope of the problem. And help them overcome these barriers with your deftness, with your finesse, thinking in terms of small bits and long campaigns, using all the weapons of influence at your disposal (including commitment and consistency and social proof).
We need this to happen. We need those people to wake up. The media will not do it. Politicians will not do it. And apparently even something as horrible as 9/11 will not do it. You must do it. If each of us reached our own sphere of influence, a certain percentage of those people would start influencing their circle of influence, and before you know it, we'd have a big enough political force to make the changes that need to be made.
It starts with you. Make a commitment to reach the people in your circle of influence. When you come to a barrier, find a way around it, or come back to this page and let us know your difficulty (in the comments to this article), and we can help you find a new approach.
A few years ago I read six books about Milton Erickson, one of the most effective psychiatrists who ever lived. And I read two books by him. So many books have been written about him because he was a phenomenon. When patients could not be helped by any other psychiatrist, they would send them to Erickson, and he would often cure the person, usually very quickly. People observed Erickson at work, filmed him, and studied the films to find out how he did it.
One of the things they found is that some of Erickson's personal philosophy differed from most other psychiatrists in interesting ways. One difference really struck me and it is relevant to our discussion here: Most therapists believe there is such a thing as a "resistant patient." In other words, when the therapist tries to help the patient, the patient resists the help for personal, psychological reasons. A whole section of psychiatric literature is devoted to resistant patients and what to do about them.
Erickson's philosophy was totally different. He saw "resistance" as his own failure to be creative enough. In other words, the patient wasn't resisting the improvement he might gain in therapy, but rather, his resistance was a side-effect of Erickson's ineptness, lack of finesse, lack of ability, lack of rapport, etc. That's the assumption Erickson started with, and then when he met resistance, Erickson would work to remedy his own lacks.
I think we would be much more effective with the "resistant" people in our circle of influence if we would think the same way.
When someone resists talking about Islamic supremacism or the third jihad, think of it this way: They're not resisting the topic, they are resisting the way you are talking about it. Instead of thinking they have a problem, or that the media is to blame, deliberately make the assumption that their resistance is only a sign of your own lack of creativity or flexibility or knowledge, and then remedy that lack.
This is a courageous way to interpret someone's "resistance." And it is not the "right" interpretation. There is no right or wrong here. This is simply another way to look at it. But this way of looking at it opens up new ways of thinking. And it can make your effectiveness blossom.
Maybe you could approach the subject differently. Maybe you could gain better rapport with the person first. Maybe your timing could be better. Maybe you could think more carefully about how to open up the subject. Maybe you could study a book on how to influence people, and get some good ideas you can try. Maybe any and all of these things would have an impact on your effectiveness.
Educating our fellow citizens is the most important thing we can do right now. We cannot do what needs to be done politically until this first task is accomplished. We need to be smart about this, we need to concentrate on it, and we need to act quickly.
One way to increase your effectiveness at reaching people is to balance fear with determination. Tell them how serious it is, but also tell them what can be done about it, and urge them to join the fight. And do it all with skill.