Doers, Un-Doers, and Non-Doers

I was part of a conversation recently about how different people deal with conflict and perceived wrongs. One of my neighbors described himself as a ‘doer’- someone who would argue a point aggressively to save face, and become violent when pressed. He said that he would argue a point even if he were wrong in order to avoid being pushed around or looked upon as weak.

My ‘doer’ neighbor then went on to describe myself and the other gentleman present as ‘talkers’ who used words to assert and defend ourselves, and always tried to make sure we had the moral high ground. While the other gentleman agreed to my neighbor’s assessment, I remained quiet and thought about this.  Continue reading

Reverence for Words

I have a proper reverence for guns. They are incredible tools that feed the hunter and protect the vulnerable. They are also incredible weapons, defeating armies, oppressing entire populations, and killing men from great distances.

My handling of guns reflects my appreciation for their power and the potential danger they represent. I would not toss my pistol to you from across a crowded room. I would probably not hand it over without checking the breach, the safety, and ensuring you knew how to properly handle a weapon. I would certainly not fire my pistol wildly in public, or fire it at you when you made me mad.  Continue reading

What’s In A Word

Could you please…? Thank you. … Oh, I’m sorry… How are you? … I’m fine.

I’ve noticed something that I, and many others, do quite a bit- we use words without intending the actual meaning of the word, or without even knowing the actual meaning of the word.

I’ll start with the word please. I, like many others, have been taught that we must say please as a matter of etiquette when requesting something, and sometimes even when commanding something. From what I have come to understand (and others may have a different spin on this), the use of the word ‘please’ is a shortening of the phrase ‘if it would please you.’ So, the word please has changed into something often used to obligate the recipient to submit to the request/command. This is a complete reversal from the concession-like nature of the original meaning- that a person need only feel obligated to do what pleases them.

The next important word(s?) whose meaning is all-too-often neglected is thank youThank is etymologically related to think- as in ‘I am conscious of the meaning and value of what you have done’. However, these days, many simply speak the word without pausing mentally to actually appreciate what exactly they are thankful of and its meaning and value. Thank yous have become another empty social ritual.

Another, less used but equally important, word is sorry. Countless times as a child, and even as an adult, I have spoken the word because custom and etiquette demanded it in certain situations. However, I couldn’t count how many times I have spoken it without actually meaning it (at least not at the time it was uttered). From what I have come to understand (again, someone may disagree), the word sorry is another shortening of a phrase. In the original sense, sorry meant that the speaker was sore- was hurting and felt bad- that they had wronged someone, as in ‘I’m sore that I’ve hurt you.’

I have noticed that even some phrases that are commonly spoken are used without any meaning. How many times have I heard (or myself) used the question ‘how are you?’ as a quick greeting, or in passing. I have often myself, and I’ve seen others, kept walking after asking the question of someone I encountered while out. If I am really interested in hearing how someone is doing, I will stop moving and listen to their response. Otherwise, it is just lip service- It’s like I’ll ask the question to keep up appearances of interest, but really you’re not worth the time it would take to hear your response.

This leads me to the next bit of empty communication. If someone has asked me how I am doing, and I am able, doesn’t it make sense to invest the bit of time it takes to tell them? If they’ve asked, then, on face value, they are interested in how things are with me. Am I so uninterested in them that they don’t warrant a sincere response? ‘Fine’ and ‘Good’ are largely meaningless as responses. When I ask my friend how they are doing, it is because I know a thing or two about their life, and I’m interested in how those things collectively and individually are going for them.

As I write this, I wonder if somewhere along the way, as the use of these words and phrases was drilled into me by parent, teacher, and culture, could the actual lesson to be conveyed have been lost? Perhaps the lesson a child is meant to be taught is not that they should use these words, but what it means to use them. Indeed, that lesson is one I intend to try to teach myself.

‘Small talk’ and using my manners don’t need to be meaningless.

Capture and Keep

Years ago, when I was in advertising, my partner and I developed a consumer decision making model which we applied to everything from sales pitches, to ad copy, to everyday networking conversations. Over the years, it has proven itself to be a highly effective tool in a variety of fields and roles, despite its simplicity.

I believe the model may have started with a few sales questions we learned from our previous employer, which we then refined and added to. We simply cannot remember how it started. I have tried to source each part of the model (to no avail) to be sure I wasn’t taking credit for any part of someone else’s published work.

I want to share the model with anyone reading this because I have found it useful. I am not actively trying to persuade anyone of anything anymore, but when asked to present information to someone about a topic, I still apply the model. It helps me to convey the information requested in a way that is relevant and easy to absorb for the listener. (I try to avoid ‘persuading’ on my blog, so I don’t consciously apply it here).

This model for consumer decision making comes up because I have been listening to an activist who lives next door as he tries to convince others of the need for change. He repeatedly tries to appeal to their sense of community and trying to evoke an altruistic response.

The flaw, or deficiency, with this sort of communication is the cultural context in which it is being carried out. We live in a western society, where egocentricity and ultra-individualism are embraced- a society whose members (generally) have one question: what’s in it for me?

Our consumer decision making model, even when applied to activism, addresses this cultural influence. It is comprised of six questions, when, if each answered with ‘yes’, will get you the sale/decision you seek.

Here they are:

1) Does a need exist (for me personally, or for my organization)?

2) Does it warrant spending time or money?

3) Can you satisfy that need?

4) Can you do it better than others?

5) Can you give me value (save me time or money)?

6) Can you be trusted?

Very easy. It can even be used by marketers to engineer the perception of need and a desire to purchase.

An example of the the different parts of the model being used by marketers:

1) You, mam, need to look beautiful to fit in, get jobs, and be attractive to men.

2) If you don’t try to look beautiful, you will be an outcast and die alone.

3) I have this makeup that will make you look beautiful.

4) My makeup will last longer than the competition, and you will be even more beautiful than if you’d chosen theirs.

5) To look as beautiful as my makeup would make you, you’d have to spend all kinds of money at a salon, or spend countless more dollars on the competitors sub-par makeup.

6) Our makeup is trusted and promoted by these important and beautiful people.

I am not saying that any woman would fall for this particular harsh example, but this precise message, incorporating the same factors as our model, is nonetheless carried to women everywhere through massive marketing campaigns, with a great deal of success in selling beauty products.

The key aspect of the model is appealing to a person’s self-interest- to their needs. The needs don’t have to be real, as with the message of many consumer product marketing campaigns, but they can be… Ideally, they would be. In the harsh, but very real example of using a ‘typical’ western woman’s needs to sell beauty products, marketers appeal to her social need, need for approval, romantic needs, and even her material needs. BLAMO! They’ll hit multiple areas of need, possibly even overwhelming a weaker consumer’s rational thought processes.

On the flip side of the above example, an activist, or anyone seeking to effect positive change, can profit from applying the model. By applying it to both the format and content of their message, they can be sure that their message is both relevant to their target and persuasive.

For example, when convincing a hypothetical western working man about the need to go green, one needs to identify his personal needs- his priorities- and relate the information being presented to those priorities. In this case, it’s as likely to be his wallet as his sense of right and wrong. Talking to this man about the ethics of going green may not fly. Perhaps he has barely enough money to feed his family on his salary. That may be his priority.

Instead, let’s talk to our western working man about how going green can make it easier, cheaper, and healthier to feed his children- the most important thing in his life. Let’s talk about how joining a local food co-op can save him money, and establish relationships with local businesses that might make his life easier and cheaper.

An example pitch:

1) You’ve told me that feeding your family is a priority for you- that finding a cheap, but effective, means of doing so is a need.

2) You spend X amount of dollars and go across town to get the best deals.

3) I know a way you can spend less, and travel less, and feed your family better.

4) The food at your local food co-op is healthier for you than foods that are mass produced across the border, and you are keeping your money in your community.

5) The prices at the local food co-op do not fluctuate with changing oil prices, because they buy locally. In addition, by hooking into that network, you can find all kinds of local deals on quality foods to buy direct from the grower- eliminating the cost of the middle man in many cases.

6) The local food co-op and local growers are just that- local. You can actually see the faces of the people behind your food, instead of some faceless transnational corporation responsible only to their shareholders. You can literally go and see where and how your foods are being produced, and talk to the people producing them.

While our hypothetical western working man is involved with co-ops and local businesses, he might get a better handle of the bigger ecological picture, and have a little more money to work with to make a bigger change.

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For some of my readers: As the above example relates to my own model of the Eight Aspects, I have used feeding his children as the ‘pivot’ to alter this western working man’s direction, applying very little force to move the man to act. Then, when he has gained more knowledge and understanding from being involved, on his own, a change might happen- a more lasting change than if I’d preached to him about the ethics of ‘green before profit’.