Would you change, just because we ask you to?
Using your resources smart to maximize your results
You want to conserve nature, protect a park or stimulate green behavior. Your money, time and energy are limited. How can you maximize the results of your communication efforts?
Preventing failing communication
People often use communication to change behavior for sustainable development. But over and over again, communication fails to affect behavior. Even worse, in some cases conflicts increase. Groups involved grow hostile. How can you prevent resistance to change?
- By understanding how communication works.
- By knowing the causes of failing communication.
- By using available knowledge and tools to develop your communication strategy.
Knowing the five main reasons why communication often fails
1. Neglecting to design a strategy
What is strategy?
Strategy is not a plan to implement. Strategy is a three-fold skill set you learn along the road towards desired results. How do you learn these skills? By...
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If you do not consciously force yourself to be strategic, you won’t be. It is not strategic to set unrealistic goals. It is strategic to have a clear picture of where you want to go and how to get there. We often fail to analyze what we want to achieve, how to achieve that most effectively and break it down in doable steps. The result is we take the wrong actions at the wrong time in the wrong place. Obviously, this can be disastrous.
2. Neglecting stakeholders
Environmental problems are often complex. There are many stakeholders involved. Local communities, the government, transport, tourism, agriculture. Each group has its own agenda. Their views differ. They talk in different languages. To reach your aims, you need to involve the stakeholders of your projects and make your actions part of their agenda!
3. Misunderstanding behavior
Current behavior has advantages for people. New behavior often requires the breaking of habits. Many actions are not rational but driven by emotions. In that case, information is ineffective. Would you change, just because we ask you to? Or because we present you facts and figures? Probably not!
4. Overestimating communication power
We are social beings. Peer pressure is a strong cause for behavior. What do my friends think when they see me bicycling instead of driving? Infrastructure, rules and legislation, costs and benefits: these are other factors influencing behavior.
To communicate effectively, you need to:
- Develop a strategy
- Understand target audiences & stakeholders
- Know communication barriers
- Estimate the power of communication
- Combine communication with other interventions
- Team up with stakeholders
5. Neglecting barriers for communication
Imagine you tell a hunter in a nature park how important it is to protect it. Did he listen to you? Or was he thinking about his marriage problems while you were talking? If the hunter listened, did he understand you? Did he agree with you? And is he willing to stop hunting the way he always hunts, the way his father and grandfather hunted? Knowing the barriers for communication in your situation is crucial!