It is much easier and more enjoyable to take the income, the money we have earned and worked hard to receive, and spend all of it every month — purchasing whatever we want and not thinking about the future. The problem, when it comes to money, is that we just aren’t planning and putting away enough. According to Northwestern Mutual’s 2019 Planning & Progress Study, 22% of Americans had $5,000 or less saved for retirement; another 5% had less than $25,000 put away, and 15% had no retirement savings at all. That’s a pity, because there are so many reasons to save for the future. The future doesn’t just have to be retirement — the future is tomorrow. Saving means allowing a break from the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle or allowing for a big purchase down the road, like a vehicle, vacation, or house. Living paycheck-to-paycheck, surprisingly, isn’t just something that happens to those earning lower incomes, but to anyone unable to create a budget and follow it, in addition to to making savings goals and reaching them. Between today and the conclusion of our income-earning days, a lot can and will happen. We might lose our job(s), take a pay increase or decrease, move, or become unable to work. Strategizing about the income we make now to devise plans for the future is one of the best things we can do with our hard-earned money.

key takeaways

  • Saving sufficiently for the future — defined as either tomorrow or three decades from now — is crucial.
  • Key steps for saving include making a budget (with a live-in partner if you have one), reviewing your expenses, and understanding your household’s cash flow.
  • Other key steps include automating your savings, looking for ways to economize by distinguishing between wants and needs, and setting an example for kids.
  • Do remember to build in the occasional splurge.
  • The best time to start saving? Right now.

Specific Steps for Saving

Once you realize the importance of saving and the role that it plays in your life, creating goals is the next step to stay on track. Part of setting financial goals is making sure you can meet them. You can use an online savings calculator, for example, to make sure your needs align with your plan. Armed with the education and tools to create realistic goals for your money, it is time to find and dedicate the money to reach your goals.

1. Make a Budget

The first thing you need to do is have a budget and stick to it. This includes being realistic about your household financial situation and setting honest and attainable numbers corresponding to your spending so that you can save. Saying you will save and thinking about saving is not enough. You will have to be intentional about what you do with your money.

2. Understand the Concept of Cash Flow

You need to understand cash flow: what it is, how it works, and what your personal household outgo looks like. Review your income and expenses and see where your spending habits lay. Be intentional about making changes to things you can in order to have money available to save.

3. Work With Your Partner

If you are married or live with someone, communication and teamwork concerning your household finances are crucial. To save, you both need to be on board with your desires, plans, and resources. The best-laid plans without everyone on board will meet turmoil.

4. Distinguish Between «Want» and «Need»

Understand the differences between needs and wants and identify yours. Be able to say no when something doesn’t align with your financial goals, today and in the future.

5. Make It Automatic

Automate savings so the money stays. If you wait until the end of the month to save, the likelihood will be that there is not much left to save. Make it automatic and have money deposited straight out of your paycheck, or have a portion go into a savings account whenever you make a deposit. If you have a few savings objectives, you can track the money you put into each account and put it through one account or use a few different savings accounts open for various goals. When you see your savings’ growth, you are more likely to keep it there. «If your employer provides a retirement savings plan, consider contributing to it,» said Indraneel Chakraborty, an Associate Professor of Finance at the Miami Herbert Business School. «If your employer does not offer a 401(k) or 403(b) plan, then consider opening a Roth IRA. Invest in these accounts using total market index funds with low expense ratios.»

6. Do a Review

Sometimes we do not even realize what we are spending each month until we examine it. Review everything you pay for. What are you buying that you might not need? If you do need it, is there a way to get it for less?

7. Look for Places to Cut

What expenses or items can you cut to enhance your savings goals? There are five key areas to review for opportunities, including energy and utilities, food and groceries, banking and credit card fees, taxes, and auto expenses (i.e., gas and insurance).

8. Think of the Children

Also, take into consideration your children. It is incredibly important to teach them about savings and spending. It is also crucial to set an example: They mirror your behaviors and will take your lead on the role of money in their lives. Some essential lessons include waiting to purchase something you want, saving, identifying specific ways for children to save (such as using jars or envelopes), making wise choices, and understanding that when money is spent, it can not be spent somewhere else.

9. Start Now

Remember that, whatever your goal is, start now. Something will always come up and compete for your resources. Saving for the future should stay in the forefront of your mind, and your finances, regardless of whatever else comes around.

10. Enjoy Life

Yes, we’ve been preaching the virtues of discipline, belt-tightening, and resisting instant gratification. But everyone is only human. Recognizing the importance of savings doesn’t mean you can’t now and again spend on things for fun, relaxation, celebrations, or just for the hell of it. But be sure to build the occasional splurge into your budget.

The Bottom Line

The above strategies will help you to stick to a budget and save for your goals all while allowing for some budgeted fun. Remember, a goal without a plan is just a wish. Write it down, create the time and opportunity, and make it happen. I have a bachelor’s in finance. I am a stay-at-home mom, but my husband likes to call me the CFO (chief financial officer) of our household.

Money Saving Tricks!

Who Can You Convince To Save Money?

Most people feel that their finances are a very private matter. Others think they are doing just fine. Yet others are slowly sinking into debt. Who can you convince to save more money? Usually family and close friends are the best bet. Also, if you work in the Finance field, clients will listen and may even follow your advice. Most people are set in their own financial routines and find it difficult or scary to look at their finances in depth. It seems like too much work to them or an unimportant subject to look into later. Show them how to save money the easy way!

Are They Happy With Their Finances?

Do they feel financially secure in their future? If so, they may be OK, but there is always room for improvement. By keeping their 401K deductions the same (percent of income) each year, they will actually be saving more each year (with raises) without doing anything. To make more profit easily, have them raise their 401K contribution by 1% each year. The savings will snowball!

What are their plans for their future?

Retirement may be around the corner or a long ways down the road. A lot of younger people may not feel the need to save money for retirement since it seems like it is so far away. They have more pressing monetary concerns now to deal with. With compounding interest, a little can add up to a lot over time. Remember, A mighty Oak was once a little nut that held its ground! Show the person who you are trying to convince different ways they can save for retirement. Help them fill out the paperwork to sign up for a retirement account. Show them how little they will need to put into their retirement savings each week and remind them that if it is taken out of their paycheck, it is not taxed, so their paycheck and tax return will benefit from a lower taxable income. Last, but not least, help them automate the amount they put into their retirement fund through the bank or through their paycheck.

Save for a rainy day!

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The Security Of A Rainy Day Fund

Ask them if they have concerns about saving money for a rainy day. What if their car breaks down or they lose their job? Do they have money saved up to help them if these things happen? What will they do if they don’t have the money and a crisis occurs? Go over the scenarios with them to ‘scare’ them into thinking about a rainy day fund. A lot of people live in the now and don’t think about saving for the future. Have them set up an automated deduction to an interest-bearing savings account for a rainy day fund. It could even be as low as a few dollars a week. A little over time is a lot more than saving nothing.

A vacation home in Vail, Colorado

Do They Have Financial Goals?

Would they like to save money for their childrens college, buy a house, go on a vacation or remodel their home? Do they have a plan to save for these goals? Talk to them about how nice it would be to make those dreams become a reality. By starting small and automating the savings, they can save enough to reach these goals. Find pictures of their goals, whether it is a vacation or a dream home and send them to them regularly by mail or email. Ask how close they are to their goals regularly to hold them accountable. Make a list of all of the costs, add them up and divide that number by the amount of months until they would like to reach their goal. For instance, they might want to go on a vacation that will cost $2400 in about 12 months. Divide $2400 by 12 and you will get the amount they need to save each month to reach their goals. Make it easy for them to see how they can fit these small savings in to their lives to create their goal in the future.

Great Tips For Saving Money

  • My 25 Favorite Money-Saving ‘Life Hacks' — The Simple Dollar
    My 11-year-old son loves “life hacks.” It’s become something of a hobby for him as he’s found lists of preteen-appropriate “life hacks” and has been using

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters. © 2012 Melanie Casey Mary Hyatt from Florida on February 13, 2013: Great article advising others how to save money. I try to instill in my children to save money to purchase something they want by putting aside some money in a separate envelope until they have enough to buy. I preach the pitfalls of credit. My daughter who is away at college is always hounded by credit card companies to get a card, and I tell her NO, don’t be tempted! Voted this UP and shared. Have you ever met someone who could get you to do anything? I have, and I’ve always craved this seemingly out-of-reach ability. There are countless books and college courses that all claim to hold the keys to persuasion. They’re valuable resources for learning how to persuade, but they tend to overcomplicate the matter and ignore practical methods of communicating effectively with people. You don’t have to be a master salesman with endless confidence in order to be more persuasive. You simply need to pay closer attention to the basics so that you can twist the odds of success in your favor.

1. Make your words powerful.

The pitch itself needs to be full of words that actually elicit a response. You can do this easily by framing your statements around key phrases. For example, “car accident” is a phrase that makes you think of many different types of vehicle collisions. But if you’re trying to persuade someone to buy car insurance, you won’t say that there are thousands of car accidents each day. You’ll say that there are thousands of car-related deaths every day. “Death” is a more powerful word than “accident,” and advertisers use this method every day in order to convince people to buy products. Here are some more words that are claimed to be the most persuasive in the English language.

2. Dress up, but don’t talk down.

Nice clothes go a long way in helping you maintain confidence, even if no one is around to see you. The nasty side effect is that being the most well-dressed person in the room can result in talking down or being condescending to people who are actually above you. ⌄ Scroll down to continue reading article ⌄ ⌄ Scroll down to continue reading article ⌄ This is an easy trap to fall into because if we feel like we have the power in a conversation, we’re more likely to patronize the person by saying things like, “Oh, well let me explain this to you. It’s really quite simple.” The problem is that if it isn’t simple, or if you’re not communicating well, you’ve pretty much lost them. Keep in mind that the person you’re pitching to is above you. They have the power to say “no.” You don’t want them to realize this, obviously, because you need to maintain control over the conversation, but talking down to the person is challenging them to a contest you don’t want to take part in. Remember that there is a fine line between arrogance and being assertive.

3. Focus on the future.

Using future tense is a great way to establish confidence. It helps the other person know that you are moving forward and ready to carry out what you promise. You can do this easily by abusing the word will. Phrases like “We will” and “Then we’ll do this” will get the person used to the idea that this is going to happen. That said, don’t be pushy. Try not to make decisions for the other person, but instead talk about possibilities and the effects of decisions that can be made.

4. Make yourself scarce.

People want what they can’t have. Make it clear that this offer you’re extending to them won’t last for ever, and they will be missing out. This especially works if you’re selling a product. Common tactics for offloading new products is by intentionally making them scarce and rare, which triggers something in people to “Get it now while you can!” Here is a great guide on the psychology of scarcity that you can refer to. ⌄ Scroll down to continue reading article ⌄ ⌄ Scroll down to continue reading article ⌄

5. Choose the right medium for your pitch.

You’re trying to convince someone to do something they probably don’t want to do (yet). This means that cultivating the environment for your pitch is quite essential. Study the person and determine how they prefer to communicate. Simply asking them if they like to talk on the phone instead of email goes a long way, just as long as you give them some options. I’ve even come across people who are more comfortable texting than talking face to face. Keep this in mind and choose a medium centered around them, not you.

6. Speak their language.

Finishing a person’s sentence is a bad habit to get into. This is because you’re inserting your own “speak” into their independent thoughts. Who wants to feel invaded? Listen closely to how the person talks and watch how they carry themselves. Choose your own approach accordingly. Do they stray from jargon? You should too. Do they make jokes and end their sentences with prepositions? Match that with your own relaxed style. Even body language should be matched effectively. If they like to talk with their hands, that means their ideal form of communication is active, so it is helpful for you to do the same. If their language is reserved and closed off (arms are closed, etc), then you know to avoid gestures that would make them feel uncomfortable. This technique is useful for addressing groups of people as well. Try to get a feel for the room and study what makes people react positively to what you say. Learn what works and apply it accordingly. ⌄ Scroll down to continue reading article ⌄ ⌄ Scroll down to continue reading article ⌄

7. Avoid verbal fillers.

Every time you let “um” or “uh” interrupt your speech, you lose credibility with the person you’re speaking to. It won’t even matter that what you have to say is important. Be clear and let your speech flow. The best way to do this is by practicing your speech at home or thinking for a second before speaking.

8. Do something for them.

As a kid, you probably said something nice to your parents before asking them for something. Even at a young age, we realize that people are more likely to help us out if they’re returning the favor for something we’ve done. You can do this before you even pitch anything. If you start off a networking relationship with a favor, that person will be more likely to work with you later on. You should also return the favor, because you never know what’s being noticed about you. I once recommended a great website on this site, which was an unsolicited favor. The recipient of this favor was so grateful for the spike in sales that they sent me free merchandise. I didn’t ask for it and they definitely didn’t have to, but it cemented a relationship that could lead to more mutual benefits in the future.

9. Be a master of timing.

This goes along with getting to know the person you’re pitching to. Study them and find out the best time to talk to them. For example, some busy executives are swamped during the beginning of the week and check out mentally on Friday. This means that Thursday may be the best time to approach a person you need to persuade. This is easier if you’re trying to persuade a friend or loved one because you understand them better. Pick the right timing to talk to them, and your odds of success will shoot way up. ⌄ Scroll down to continue reading article ⌄ ⌄ Scroll down to continue reading article ⌄

10. Express your opinion reluctantly.

You want the other person to believe in you. You have all of the answers, but how did you get there? Talk about what you used to believe, and what you believe now. Use your own learning experience as a story that they can model after. By doing this, you are pacing the conversation/pitch and giving the person assurance that this will work for them.

11. Repeat what they say.

Prove that you are listening to and acknowledging the thoughts and feelings of the person you’re talking to. You can affirm their stance by simply saying, “If I’m understanding you correctly, you’re saying that you find this important because of XY and Z. I ubderstand that, and think AB and C.” Trust me, this comes in handy even when you’re not addressing the alphabet.

12. Build to your emotions.

Let your emotional responses, such as enthusiasm and excitement, naturally develop during the conversation. Don’t overwhelm the person with a zeal they don’t feel yet. In many cases, you’ll want to wait until the end of your pitch to start sprinkling in the emotion and passion. This will ensure that it comes across as sincere and logically founded on what’s already been said. A good rule of thumb is to start the conversation on an upbeat but relaxed note. As you start discussing the topic at hand, gradually grow more excited and passionate about what you’re talking about. This way, the person won’t feel like they’re being “worked.” They’ll instead feel like you are doing them a favor. ⌄ Scroll down to continue reading article ⌄ ⌄ Scroll down to continue reading article ⌄ The greatest public health achievement of the 20th Century was tobacco control. In 1965 — the year that the first Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking was published—some 42% of U.S. adults smoked, and only half of Americans believed smoking was a cause of lung cancer. Today, the proportion of people who smoke hovers around 15%, and 90% of Americans believe smoking causes lung cancer. That’s progress, for sure. Despite growing understanding of the negative health effects and increasing social pressure not to smoke, millions of people just aren’t into quitting. The key to “motivating the unmotivated” is to stop thinking of motivation as something we have to manufacture or inflict on people. That issue has plagued wellness programs, health care providers, and scientists for decades.

The approaches to solving it have generally fallen under three categories

Unfortunately, far too many programs — and much of the scientific literature — have taken this approach. Many programs accept only those who are willing to attempt a quit. This approach makes programs look effective (quit rates will be higher when you’re dealing only with a population of people who want to quit), but it also excludes those who are most in need of support and a lifeline.

Educate‍

As a general rule, people who smoke know that smoking is bad for them, with at least 70% already saying they want to quit. Health risk information may grab people initially, but constantly repeating it in hopes of getting them to change will likely only frustrate everyone involved and may even scare them. The truth is that most education-centered quit programs are trying to convince people to make a difficult change today in hopes of avoiding something that might happen in the future. That’s unlikely to keep them motivated through the immediate and oftentimes difficult challenges that come with quitting tobacco.

Nudge‍

Behavioral economics and incentive design have both garnered a lot of attention in recent years. While we have gotten smarter about how to more effectively deliver incentives, there are many ways incentives can backfire. Penalties like insurance premium surcharges can frustrate people who smoke and make them feel discriminated against. This is likely to lead to them misrepresenting their smoking status or trying to find other ways to game the system — like going through the motions with health coaching or other “reasonable alternative” activities just to check the box, rather than moving toward positive change. Also, many incentive approaches, while effective for short-term change, can actually make it harder for people to sustain change over time, which is really what’s important for success when it comes to quitting smoking.

So, how do we motivate people who don’t want to quit smoking?

It starts with understanding two things.

Why people smoke

Anytime we’re trying to help people make a change, whether it’s managing their weight, improving their diet, or taking charge of their financial well-being, it helps to remember that the status quo serves a purpose. For example, no one eats junk food because they want to be unhealthy. They eat it because it’s convenient, it’s cheap, and/or it tastes good. Similarly, smoking can help people to feel calmer when they’re stressed. It gives them a way to take breaks and socialize. For a lot of people, smoking is one of the only things they can really count on. Quitting doesn’t simply mean giving up an unhealthy habit; it also means giving up some things that are working for them, like having a way to unwind or connect with others. So, if we’re going to help someone quit smoking long-term, we need to understand why they smoke, then help them develop skills for dealing with other aspects of their lives.

Why people don’t want to quit

Some people might feel that they’re incapable of quitting because they’ve tried (and failed) before. It takes people an average of 7-10 quit attempts before they find the right collection of skills, support, and internal motivation to succeed. For others, there may be areas of their life that are a higher priority right now. And for some people, refusal to quit might be a form of rebellion against the social pressure not to smoke. Additionally, many people who smoke feel isolated, misunderstood, and even stigmatized, judged for smoking and their inability to quit. When people feel that their struggles with trying to quit aren’t understood, or when they feel that their value as a human is contingent on their ability to quit, this takes the wind out of their sails, leaving them with little psychological energy to devote to a quit attempt.

It’s time to look deeper

When people seem like they aren’t motivated to change, it’s not time to push harder. It’s time to look deeper. If we’re going to effectively reach those who aren’t yet ready to quit, we have to understand what’s standing in the way. That’s where Pivot comes in. ‍ How do you encourage someone – a child, partner, pet – to save money? Here are five awesome ways to help loved ones save money, inspired by a reader’s question… “My boyfriend and I are both seventeen, he’s going away to university in August,” says Tiff on How to Stop Money From Causing Relationship Issues. “He only has a Saturday job. He’s been spending loads of money that he doesn’t have. I’ve been trying to encourage him to save money, but he just agrees and saves nothing. I’ve told him I’ll help him. Instead of traveling this summer, we’ll find free ways to enjoy ourselves. What are some ways I can ensure he saves money? How do I encourage him to save more and spend less?” Get him a piggy bank! It’s a great way to encourage kids to save money – and we’re all kids at heart. The Digi-Piggy Digital Coin Counting Bank is cool because it keeps track of how much money is being saved. I’m kidding 🙂 Here are five ways to encourage someone to save more money… “There is only one way to get anybody to do anything. And that is by making the other person want to do it.” ~ Dale Carnegie. The best ways to help people save depends on their personality…and your ability to let go of the need to control.

1. Remember that you can’t make someone want to save money

You can’t ensure anyone saves money, much less a seventeen year old boyfriend who is spending more than he has! I think the best tip for someone who wants to encourage a partner or family member is to remember you can’t change another person’s financial habits. You share easy ways to save money by doing them yourself…but don’t try to change him. You’ll set yourself up for disappointment, disaster, and a dearth of love. If your loved one has no money, read 5 Secrets for Surviving When You Have No Money.

2. Add a frog when you encourage someone to save money

Yes, you read it right: a frog can help someone save money. Researchers studied the effects of negotiating the purchase price of an expensive piece of art in two ways. Half the time, the buyer said, “I offer $6,000, and that’s my final price.” The other half, the buyer said, “I offer $6,000, and I’ll throw in my pet frog.” Which offer convinced people to say yes? The one that included the pet frog, natch. A brief, humorous, light-hearted approach can put people in a good mood, and encourage them to save more money than if you nagged.

3. Set up a “cash contest”

“Stick to cash for a week and see who wins,” writes Farnoosh Torabi in 5 Ways to Encourage Your Spouse to Save Money. “As we know, the best way to reduce spending is to stick to cash. Swiping a credit card involves less “pain” than taking cold, hard cash out of your wallet and watching it disappear.” To make saving money fun (and encouraging), he suggests creating a contest. “Give yourselves a strictly cash (no credit cards) discretionary budget for the week, say $100, and see who finishes with the most in his/her wallet. The one who loses has to assume some undesirable chore or task – like cleaning duties for the week or chauffeuring the kids to their various play dates/sports/tutoring all week.” If you both spend less money (and in fact on average we do spend less money if we use cash, by 20%), you’ll feel extremely rewarded and be encouraged to keep saving.

4. Be open about how you save and invest your money

If you want to encourage someone to save money, don’t lecture or try to force him. Instead, role model your own good financial habits and reasons for accumulating wealth. For instance, do you have good debt (money borrowed to finance an asset, such as a mortgage or student loan)? What are your favorite money saving tips? What are you saving up for? How does saving money positively affect your life? What are your financial goals?

5. Compromise – meet halfway

Here’s a great way to encourage someone to save money, from a reader: “I have a few friends who love to eat out and although I enjoyed it, that lifestyle doesn’t fit my new financial goals,” says Sydney on How to Stop Spending Money You Don’t Have. “With one friend in particular we’ve been able to strike a compromise – we only go out to eat once a month and it has to be someplace that has a half-price or by-one-get-one-free coupon. As it turns out, she likes the fact that she’s saving some money now too!” I think the best tip for encouraging people to save money is to let go of the need to control them. Keep your love separate from your finances…and you’ll both be happier. What do you think – how do you encourage kids, partners, or family members to save money? Comments welcome below… xo Directives have been a standard approach to changing public behavior for decades. But they often fail because people hate being told what to do. There are three ways to overcome this obstacle. First, highlight a gap between their thoughts and action, or the advice they would give others and what they do themselves; they will want to reconcile the two. Second, pose questions, rather than making statements; when you force them to figure out their own feelings or opinions on the issue, it is more likely to drive action. Finally, ask for less; start with small requests and ramp up to big ones.

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Government and public health organizations have been tasked with the challenge of changing behavior — getting people to not only practice social distancing and shelter in place but do it for weeks and potentially months. Not surprisingly, almost everyone is relying on the standard approach to drive change: Tell people what to do. Issue demands like: “Don’t go out,” “Stay six feet apart,” Wash your hands,” and “Wear face masks.” While a lot of us are following recommendations so far, making sure everyone sticks with them for the long haul is a tougher ask. Some people are still or have resumed congregating in groups. Some churches, with support from their local leaders, are flouting stay-at-home orders. And protesters have begun to demand that businesses reopen sooner than experts suggest. Directives aren’t particularly effective in driving sustained behavior change because we all like to feel as if we are in control of our choices. Why did I buy that product, use that service, or take that action? Because I wanted to. So when others try to influence our decisions, we don’t just go along, we push back against the persuasive attempt. We get together with a friend, shop more than once a week, don’t wear a mask. We avoid doing what they suggested because we don’t want to feel like someone else is controlling us. Our innate anti-persuasion radar raises our defenses, so we avoid or ignore the message or, even worse, counter-argue, conjuring up all the reasons why what someone else suggested is a bad idea. Sure, the governor said to stay home but they’re overreacting. Maybe the virus is bad in some part of the country, but I don’t know a single person whose gotten it. And besides, many people who get it are fine anyway, so what’s the big deal? Like an overzealous high school debater, they poke and prod and raise objections until the persuasive power of the message crumbles. So if telling people what to do doesn’t work, what does? Rather than trying to persuade people, getting them to persuade themselves is often more effective. Here are three ways to do that.

1. Highlight a gap.

You can increase people’s sense of freedom and control by pointing out a disconnect between their thoughts and actions, or between what they might recommend for others versus do themselves. Take staying at home. For young people who might resist, ask what they would suggest an elderly grandparent or a younger brother or sister do. Would they want them out, interacting with possibly infected people? If not, why do they think it’s safe for them to do so? People strive for internal consistency. They want their attitudes and actions to line up. Highlighting misalignment encourages them to resolve the disconnect. Health officials in Thailand used this approach in an anti-smoking campaign. Rather than telling smokers their habit was bad, they had little kids come up to smokers on the street and ask them for a light. Not surprisingly, the smokers told the kids no. Many even lectured the little boys and girls about the dangers of smoking. But before turning to walk away, the kids handed the smokers a note that said, “You worry about me … But why not about yourself?” At the bottom was a toll-free number smokers could call to get help. Calls to that line jumped more than 60% during the campaign.

2. Pose questions.

Another way to allow for agency is to ask questions rather than make statements. Public health messaging tries to be direct: “Junk food makes you fat.” “Drunk driving is murder.” “Keep sheltering in place.” But being so forceful can make people feel threatened. The same content can be phrased in terms of a question: “Do you think junk food is good for you?” If someone’s answer is no, they’re now in a tough spot. By encouraging them to articulate their opinion, they’ve had to put a stake in the ground — to admit that those things aren’t good for them. And once they’ve done that, it becomes harder to justify the bad behaviors. Questions shift the listener’s role. Rather than counter-arguing or thinking about all the reasons they disagree, they’re sorting through their answer to your query and their feelings or opinions on the matter. And this shift increases buy-in. It encourages people to commit to the conclusion, because while people might not want to follow someone else’s lead, they’re more than happy to follow their own. The answer to the question isn’t just any answer; it’s their answer, reflecting their own personal thoughts, beliefs, and preferences. That makes it more likely to drive action. In the case of this crisis, questions like “How bad would it be if your loved ones got sick?” could prove more effective than directives in driving commitment to long-term or intermittent social distancing and vigilant hygiene practices.

3. Ask for less.

The third approach is to reduce the size of the ask. A doctor was dealing with an obese trucker who was drinking three liters of Mountain Dew a day. She wanted to ask him to quit cold turkey, but knew that would probably fail, so she tried something else. She asked him to go from three liters a day to two. He grumbled, but after a few weeks, was able to make the switch. Then, on the next visit, she asked him to cut down to one liter a day. Finally, after he was able to do that, only then did she suggest cutting the soda out entirely. The trucker still drinks a can of Mountain Dew once in a while, but he’s lost more than 25 pounds. Especially in times of crisis, health organizations want big change right away. Everyone should continue to stay at home, by themselves, for two more months. But asks this big often get rejected. They’re so different from what people are doing currently that they fall into what scientists call “the region of rejection” and get ignored. A better approach is to dial down the initial request. Ask for less initially, and then ask for more. Take a big ask and break it down into smaller, more manageable chunks. Government officials responding to the pandemic are already doing this to some extent by setting initial end dates for social distancing measures, then extending them. But there might be more opportunities, for example when experts allow for some restrictions to be lifted — say, on small gatherings — but insist that others, such as concerts or sporting events, continue to be banned. Whether we’re encouraging people to socially distance, shop only once a week, thoroughly wash hands and wear face masks, or change behavior more broadly, too often we default to a particular approach: Pushing. We assume that if we just remind people again or give them more facts, figures, or reasons, they’ll come around. But, as recent backlash against the Covid-19 -related restrictions suggests, this doesn’t always work over the long term, especially when your demands have no fixed end date. If we instead understand the key barriers preventing change, such as reactance, and employ tactics designed to overcome them, we can change anything.


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