To truly engage someone in Sustainability…
… it has to be on their terms, not yours.
Over the last couple of months I’ve had a couple of more-or-less polite run-ins with members of the Extinction Rebellion (XR) movement. I think they’re making the same mistake as almost every protest group of yore, using a message designed for people like them, rather than people unlike them – the people they need to talk to. If your road-blocking protest holds up a harassed parent trying to get their squabbling kids home from school after a busy day at work, then you’re making them less likely to listen to your message not more.
One XR member explained they have ‘online grief circles’ to support each other and aim to ‘bear witness’ to ecological destruction. How on earth is a grief circle going to save a single kg of carbon emissions? I mean, good grief, can you think of anything more ineffectually self-indulgent?
Here’s the rub:
- To make change happen you’ve got to get people who aren’t listening to you to listen to you.
- There hasn’t exactly been a dearth of eco-messages over the last 50 years. If someone isn’t listening to those messages by now, we need to change the message.
- Pissing people off makes them close their minds, not open them up to new ideas.
To engage people, we need their permission to engage with them. Not in a ‘Good morning, may I have 5 minutes of your time?’ way, but rather finding a way of making the message of interest to them, making them want to hear/do more.
In my Green Jujitsu animation (above), the tide turns when our protagonist, Barry Green, stops sloganeering and takes a few seconds to consider his audience. He realises that by reframing sustainability to meet their interests (problem solving), he can get their permission to have that conversation. Voila.