I can admit it. Throughout my life I, like the majority of us, have been the target of salespeople. Yes, a minority with ulterior motives but a majority who are doing their job and just like me trying to earn a living.
Whether it was that annual subscription to the World Wildlife Fund as a child (Thank you ‘Blue Peter’) or having a desire to have one of those cordless VAX machines strategically placed under the stairs always ready for some action, we have often found ourselves victims of influence.
Just what are the factors that cause individuals to say yes to another person? And what can those involved in prevention of violence learn from these seasoned professionals? In my humble opinion, quite a lot actually.
I recently read a book which highlighted a call between the author (A Psychologist) and a friend. The friend, who had just opened up a jewellery store, was calling to highlight something ‘strange’ that had just happened. She informed her friend that over past weeks she had been struggling to sell some pieces of jewellery. She had tried the usual approaches to shift the now ‘un-welcome residents’ without success.
One Friday she was about to head on an out of town buying trip. Before leaving she wrote a short note to an assistant who was to cover the shop whilst she was away. The note said, “Everything in display case, price x ½”. By doing so she had hoped just to be simply rid of the pieces, even if it meant losing money.
When she returned the following week, she was relieved to see that the items had been sold. What confused her was that the assistant had misread the note and had mistakenly doubled the price. Her question to the author was what the heck had happened? Why had the jewellery meant to be sold for half price quickly sold for double the price?
The explanation given by the author was simply “Expensive = Good”. In the midst of the other jewellery on display, customers had identified the marked jewellery as more desirable simply due to the price. The ‘get what you pay for’ mantra is real and was the influencer here.
So, what has this got to do with prevention? In many ways those involved in prevention are selling a concept, an idea. I don’t want to simply align sales-techniques to the professional work of practitioners, but I really think those involved in prevention should think about their approach as much as they do when thinking about the message they want to convey.
The question I put to those involved in prevention is why should people listen to your message? It might seem obvious to you but unless they see a relevance to themselves, they might not belief in what you are trying to do. Prevention needs to equal good.
When I engage with schools, I often start with a conversation which sounds a bit like this:
Me – What issues are impacting on young people in your school?
School – Where do we start – Social Media, that’s the big problem.
Me – What issues are impacting on your staff?
School – Sexting is a big issue; staff are spending so much time dealing with the kids sending nudes.
Me – What’s the outcome of all this?
School – What do you mean?
Me – Well is it just the behaviour you are focusing on or is the behaviour effecting on the ability of the young person to learn.
This is the bit that starts to engage the school on the issue. Schools and many groups often spend time trying to stop the behaviour rather than working on improving relationships that will both stop the behaviour in the first place and support learning. This is my focus with schools and one that I use to engage them to work with me.
The above provides an example of engaging schools on prevention. So, the prevention = good equation is seen as follows –
Prevention (the sessions) = Good (the focus on relationships, improved learning)
Engaging men on the prevention of violence is another area I’m passionate about. Fact men commit most violence. Fact men are victims of most violence. When I started doing this work, I would be thinking “Why wouldn’t men want to get involved?”. What I was doing here was simply expecting others to see the same as me. I was in an echo chamber and not able to realise that others weren’t seeing the issues as I was.
I still see this approach in the field of prevention. I hear some simply say “men need to speak out and end violence against women”. By the way I totally agree but let’s be honest we don’t need to do anything we don’t want to do. The focus for me is “why, should men speak out to end violence against women?”. It’s maybe clear to those delivering the message but it’s not always clear to those the message is aimed at.
First step is to meet men where they are at on the subject and then provide reasons why they should speak out against violence.
I often focus on the following messages when I work with men. I have many others, but you will get the message.
“The fact is that the majority of men don’t commit violence but just enough to fuck it up for the rest of us. Our boys are confused and need role models to help them be the men they want to be”
“See these statistics on Domestic Abuse. The statistics are people, people we love and care about”
Unfortunately, men can be defensive and prone to fighting back. I know I was once. Provide them with reasons to get involved. As said by Civil Rights Activist Malcolm X
“Don’t be in such a hurry to condemn a person because he doesn’t do what you do or think as you think. There was a time when you didn’t know what you know today.
So, the prevention = good equation is seen here as follows –
Prevention (the stepping up) = Good (being role models, being leaders, looking out for those we love and care about).
When it comes to violence there’s so many ways to communicate the Prevention = Good equation. Economic cost, less victims, productive and safer communities, better wellbeing and even less assaults against the police are all there.
To end, the power to influence another person should not just be the skill assigned to the salesperson. Prevention is more about influence than we think. In a world where the public can be swayed by lazy and opportunistic media or by politicians looking for the short-term success to win that all important vote, we need to be on our game to influence people to our way of thinking.