how to get people to act

How to get people to act?

People have a deep inherent need to (have the feeling that they) control their lives. Take that away, even if it’s just a little bit, and you will often face resistance. Understanding this is super important if you ever aim to get people to do something, for example, behave more sustainably. But how do you avoid resistance and get people to act?

One of the most effective ways to create change is through self-persuasion; placing people in situations where they are motivated to persuade themselves to change their own attitudes or behavior. In one study, smokers were exposed to messages about the health risks of smoking. In the first case, someone read the script to them; in another case, the smoker had to read the script out loud themselves. In that latter case, people found the ideas more persuasive than when the very same evidence and data were read by someone else. Merely the act of reading the message, as opposed to listening to the very same message, changed the ownership that people felt in relation to the idea.

The same concept can be applied in meetings as well. You’ve probably found yourself in meetings in which you disagree with the direction your team was taking. Instead of giving counterarguments immediately, first get people to tell you they’re open to what you have to say. How? Listen very closely and then ask the question: Are you open to a different point of view? I see the merits of your position, but I have some concerns. When you ask that question to people, the vast majority will say yes, and simply getting people to say yes, in fact, makes them more open to your point of view.

In short, we are most effectively and profoundly influenced, not by ideas and data and evidence that people give to us or force upon us, but rather by ideas and evidence we generate on our own (or at least feel like we did).