We have a problem. Call it a language barrier, if you will. And it starts like this:
This is how we often express to each other, to colleagues and loved ones, our principal challenge when it comes to energy conservation, efficiency and climate change. “Nobody CARES.” We hear this and say this—or some version of it—nearly every day.
We think people must not care, because proof of our impact on the planet abounds and yet we’ve not accomplished NEARLY the change we need to. And so we—either purposefully or subconsciously—design our engagement and conversations around GETTING people to care. How often have you said, “I need to GET people to make this a priority?” “We need to CONVINCE people to change?” “We must MAKE them understand?”
The way we say things … is everything
These are, clearly, military terms. But most of them probably look familiar in your professional lives. This is how we talk in our businesses, specifically when we’re determining our communications and engagement initiatives.
I hate this.
A “target” is something you shoot at. “Front lines” are terrifying, tragic and inhuman places. A “war on” anything means inevitable loss, impossible decisions and unwinnable odds.
When we use this kind of language, we inevitably subvert our own goals. Those goals rely exclusively on honest, approachable and supportive human engagement. How can we possibly hope to make positive progress with such negative words? We need to change our vocabulary and plant the seeds of a new vernacular for our industry. This starts with how we talk to each other and how we refer to the humans on the receiving end of our communications.
|It looks more like this…||And less like this…|
|The people we serve||Our targets|
|How do we support?||How do we convert?|
|Inspire||Make them change|
We need to understand and speak about the people we serve as if they were our friends, our colleagues, our families. These are the complex, conflicted, sensitive, rational, irrational and completely unique humans who will help us change the world, if we could only join forces and start speaking the same language.