One of the most significant challenges we face as we work to prepare for the drastic changes ahead in the post-petroleum world is to help bring along those around us so they begin to understand those challenges too. By all means, you need to talk about what you’re learning. Remember, we’re all in this together, so the sooner those around you are accepting the post-petroleum reality, the sooner we’ll have the benefit of their thinking and energy, and the better off we all will be. You’re likely to encounter resistance, however, and this page is all about how to deal effectively with that resistance.
This is the most important information on this page, so ponder it carefully: if you imagine a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is “getting it” and ready to do the hard work, and where 1 is blissfully planning a summer trip in your air-conditioned Hummer across Arizona munching cherries flown in from Chile, and if you decide that you’re at 9 on that scale and that your friend is at 2, it is not up to you to move your friend to 8 or 9. All you need to do, all you can realistically hope to do, is to help him or her travel to 3. The rest will come later.
Growing out of Amanda’s training as a communication specialist and our shared experience as communicators, we have articulated the steps most people go through before they truly understand the Triple Threat and can begin in earnest the hard work needed to prepare for post-petroleum life. And as we describe each step, we’ll spell out some strategies that you can employ to deal with it. Here are the steps most of us need to travel as we absorb information that’s uncomfortable:
- Ignore it
- Laugh it off
- Challenge it
- Get angry or depressed about it
- Prepare for it
It’s the most natural thing in the world. One of the least understood but most common communicative strategies we humans employ in sifting through the mountains of data that confront us every day is to focus on the data we expect to find and ignore the data that doesn’t fit. It’s entirely healthy that we do this, and our lives would be chaotic and perhaps miserable if we didn’t.
When you’re spelling out how the Triple Threat of petroleum depletion, catastrophic climate change, and overpopulation are about to change all the rules and force drastic changes in our lives, and you see your friend’s eyes glaze over, you shouldn’t think less of your friend, and you surely shouldn’t think less of yourself. Your friend is simply dealing as effectively as he or she can with information that simply doesn’t fit.
Strategy: Remember, you’re not trying to move your friend to a 9, just to a 3. Someone else will take them on the next step later, or perhaps you will. You’ve planted the seed, which is all you can do for today.
Laugh It Off
If we can no longer ignore information that doesn’t fit into our comfort zone, the next step most of us employ is to ridicule it, or ridicule the source (yeah, that’s you). Again, this is a normal, healthy response to unfamiliar and unacceptable information. If you’re sharing your plans for life after petroleum and your friend begins to make fun of you, don’t take it personally. In all likelihood, your friend isn’t poking fun at you because he or she thinks you or the information you’re sharing are funny; it’s because your friend is struggling to deal with this information that doesn’t fit.
Strategy: The most effective response to your friend’s ridiculing you or the information you’re trying to share is to laugh along. Yes, it will feel a tad like your whoring yourself to the limited understanding of those around you, but trust us on this, it’s the best way to keep the channels of communication open. Laugh along with your friend, and then gently restate your point. Then move on. Ridicule is probably as far as your friend can travel today.
When we can no longer ignore or make fun of information we don’t like, we look for reasons to reject it. We remember a report we heard, an article we read, or a general principle we know to be true that makes the new information clearly erroneous. When your friend brings up information showing how you must be wrong in your concern about the Triple Threat, you can give a little inward cheer, because this means you have now engaged the mind, the logic, the intellect, of your friend. From here on out, it’s all downhill.
Strategy: What you must not do is what Lee did when he was new to all this. That is, you must not say “Well I’m right, and you’re wrong, and you’ll figure it out eventually; just remember that I told you this was coming.” Yeah, pretty dumb, huh? You want to greet your friend’s challenge with genuine joy.
If the information is new to you, say so: “Hmm, you’re telling me something I haven’t heard before. Do you remember where you read that? I’d like to go find out more about it.” This puts you and your friend on the same team in a joyous pursuit of higher quality knowledge, and it prepares your friend to accept the truth you have to share if you discover it together.
If you have heard the information before and know it to be erroneous or irrelevant, be very careful. You cannot simply reject information your friend believes to be valid, because that would raise your friend’s defenses and shut down the exchange. Instead, see yourself as a tour guide, leading your friend on the journey. Start with where your friend is now: “Yeah, I remember reading that too. And I remember thinking that if it’s true it would mean that everything I’m telling you would be hooey. Here’s how I approached it:” And then tell your friend exactly the reasons you ultimately decided the information your friend is describing is either wrong, or irrelevant, or both.
Get Angry or Depressed About It
It’s a rare person indeed who can come to believe bad news they had rejected earlier and immediately leap to action to deal with it. When we finally accept that bad news we thought was false is actually true (and it matters deeply to us), we get anxious, angry, and/or depressed. How long your friend needs to stay here will depend on his or her personality, the degree to which the reality has been unthinkable in the past, and the urgency of the preparations needed. It will not depend on anything you do or say.
Strategy: When your friend goes into a funk or looks for some way to lash out at real or perceived “enemies” who have caused this, be patient. Let your friend vent, or suck his thumb, or whatever he needs to do to allow time to absorb this new painful reality. Anything you do to make your friend snap out of the anger/depression before your friend is ready will not help and may actually cement the depression in place. Better to just continue to engage your friend in intermittent conversation about your friend’s feelings so your friend can do the work.
Slowly, almost imperceptibly, your friend will begin dropping clues that he or she is ready to come out of the funk and is ready to begin thinking about solutions and preparation. Then your friend is ready to
Prepare For It
Congratulations. You’ve taken your friend on a painful but essential journey. He or she may never realize the role you’ve played, and that’s not important. Your friend is now ready for you to share more of what you’ve learned and to invite your friend to join in community with you to plan how we all can survive.
Good for you. On behalf of humans everywhere, thank you.