Do you think people are rational decision‑makers?
That is: you put facts in front of them about problems and solutions, have a reasoned debate, persuade them of a different point of view, then they change their position and their behaviour.
If so, you have to let go of that idea.
Seriously. Do you want to make progress? That set of assumptions, conscious or unconscious, will keep you stuck for years.
It’s what we were doing in the environmental movement in the 1990s. Back then we didn’t know any different. Psychology and marketing weren’t mass-accessible in the way they are now.
Here’s the thing. Humans have the capacity to be rational decision-making creatures. But for most of us, most of the time, we’re not. We run on habits, worldviews, prejudices, emotions.
If you’re a person biased toward rational problem-solving, like I am and many of my friends in environmental groups were, this is confusing and frustrating. But no less true.
You still see it all the time. People have presented arguments to a government, company or individual and encountered what seems to be a stubborn refusal to shift. They’re treating it as a debating society, and wondering why it didn’t work.
From that frame of reference the main explanation available is that the other side has not understood – either because they’re stupid or because you haven’t explained it properly. So you try again (and again).
But if you step back you can see that what’s really going on is messy psychology at work, and plugging away in rational explainer mode will never succeed.
I’m not saying you should stop opposing bad things and presenting arguments. It’s important to have that out there where people can see it. It’s important that people doing bad things don’t get it all their own way, and that people inclined to question can see they’re not alone.
But in most cases winning a debate is not the point where friction is stopping you moving forward.
That is rooted in people’s conditioning, personal identity, tribal connections, how they’re used to things being done, what they value, how they suppress those values to fit in socially, and all that sort of stuff.
Welcome to the frontier of the 21st century.
Want to read more? This post became the first section of my book Planet of the Bubble People.