The most persuasive people convince us incrementally – not trying to change us, but by reminding us who we are.*
Give people a reason and they may supply the behaviour; but give people a behaviour and they’ll have no problem supplying the reason themselves.
Both of these opening statements come from marketers. Perhaps it’s because I had the privilege of attending The Compassion Salon last evening, but as I read Bernadette Jiwa’s and Rory Sutherland’s words it felt like they’re writing about compassion.
Jiwa tells the story of her Canadian baker friend Mark Dyck who was given the opportunity of advertising his business in a shiny magazine for $3,000. Knowing his business was built on relationships, he decided to use the money to engage in what felt a more appropriate form of marketing.
Dyck introduced the “true friend’s bread basket,” providing a loyal customer with a week’s supply of fresh bread. He then handed the nomination of the next recipient to that first customer, and that customer would chose the next, and so it spread.
Rory Sutherland writes about behaviours leading people to their own reasons for doing something. I think story is another word for reason, and behaviours are best communicated in stories; they help us to imagine ways to behave similarly in our own worlds with the people who inhabit these.
Another marketer, Seth Godin, writes:
We have to go where people are if we’re going to get them to somewhere better.^
Godin is identifying empathy and compassion as important but different things.
Empathy is stepping into the world of another and connecting with their story – attachment. The danger is one of becoming too attached. Ask a really empathetic person how difficult it can be to find space for themselves rather than worrying about others and you come face-to-face with this dilemma.
Compassion is actioning and involves detachment to be able to help. Rather than the soft option many believe compassion to be – those gathered in the salon were promoting compassion in the worlds of education, government and medicine – compassion brings us into the world as it is. And this includes having the opportunity to become our true and most honest Self.
I am beginning to think that compassion is perhaps our most human quality, making it possible to touch another’s life in a dynamic way when there is no direct, practical or natural reason for doing this.
My reason for using the words of three marketers is to show how compassion is alive in some unexpected places, indeed, it is to be found in each of us, even those who are most suspicious of compassion. It’s how the human world works at its best. It is who we are at our best.
(*From The Story of Telling: On Persuasion.)
(**From Rory Sutherland’s Alchemy.)
(^Seth Godin, quoted in Bernadette Jiwa’s The Right Story.)