Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Devious communication tactics

Peak Oil threads usually feature someone asking "How do I tell my family and friends about Peak Oil?". Responses can range from the "I don't even bother anymore" to "I sit them down in front of the TV for a Peak Oil DVD marathon followed by a 30 minute Power Point presentation featuring M. King Hubbert". The key here is that everyone is different, and will respond better to different methods of communication. It's also important for you to understand yourself - some ways of communicating are easier to pull off than others.

Logic and reason don't work on everyone, while emotional appeals don't work for others; some people have to be left to do their own research, while some people need to be spoon fed and have their every objection answered. So how can we introduce the idea of peak oil, and preparing for peak oil, in an easy non-confrontational way?

First, KNOW your target! What do they respond to? What turns them off? What motivates them? Who do they resonate with? What do they fear? Assess your target, and pick one or more from the following tactics to try.

1. Bragging

Envy is a powerful motivator, and so is the fear of missing out. If you happen to hear someone reporting how their retirement has been pushed back by 15 years, you can tell them how you've made a fortune investing in gold, oil, and alternative energy. Assuming that's true. Make sure to tell them why your system works.

Here's one I use - Wow, I'm sorry your heating bills are so high. Us? Why, our electric and heating combined never go over $97....

2. Current Event Chitchat

Hey, did you hear that oil hit $100 a barrel for the first time ever? Gosh, did you hear that the people in New England will be paying twice as much for heating oil this winter? Did you hear about the tortilla riots? Seems like food prices are so much higher this year...

3. Gifting

Good for birthdays and holidays. Books, DVD's, etc. The present doesn't necessarily have to be Peak Oil oriented; it could be an environmental book or a book on local food. Let it spark up a conversation.

4. Leaving media around

How about laying out your copy of "The Party's Over" when the relatives come over? How about leaving up LATOC or The Energy Bulletin on the computer when you check your email at your sister's house? Or have your friends over for movie night - but have the second half of End of Suburbia playing when they get there? Just say, "Oh, do you mind if we finish this off so we can mail it back?". The movie can be playing in the background while you pass the chips and pour the drinks.

5. Skip the peak - get to the prep

If you shy away from talking about peak oil, start encouraging the preparation for peak oil. Many reasons exist to prepare for a crisis, start a garden or insulate the house. Use the environmental angle or the news of a recent natural disaster.

You can also involve your family or friends in your own preparations. You can baldly tell them what you are doing, without trying to persuade them to do the same. Ask them to come with you to the store to top off your 3 month food storage. Offer to split your seeds with them. Give them the business card for the insulation guy when they complain about their heating bill.

6. Start a competition

The folks at the Riot for Austerity are the masters here. But it doesn't have to be as extreme as a 90% reduction in your carbon footprint, even though that's possible.

For example, my husband started a hyper-miling competition at his work to see who could use the fewest miles per gallon. This type of strategy works well with the testosterone overloaded sorts.

7. The tortoise approach

I know you feel an urgent need to prepare, and get everyone else prepared, but some people don't respond so well when you show up with your sirens on and red lights flashing. For these people, you're in it for the long haul. Send them news links, preferably from well-known news media. After that, use any or all of the above. Over time, as they notice gas prices going up, they'll come around.

Remember, marketing research shows that people have to be exposed to a new idea many, many times before it will start to sink in. Don't be discouraged if your efforts aren't immediately rewarded with action. People have to internalize the idea of peak oil, mull over the implications, be convinced that someone else is not going to save them, and start to think about change - before they can change.

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