How to make people care about what you care about

Spoiler: you can’t.

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I don’t know about you, but I get frustrated when I know there’s a right way to do something, and it’s so easy an idea to adopt, and yet people don’t. It’s almost as if you can’t click your fingers and suddenly everyone does what you tell them… who knew!?

Anyway, my current and particular bugbear is people talking to their audiences in the plural… especially in audio, which is such a personal medium.

So I was pleased this week to read of a study that confirmed that 94% of Brits listen to podcasts on their own, not in groups.

“This is perfect!” I thought. “This is the vindication I needed that I was right: we should stop saying ‘hi guys’ or ‘hey listeners’ or referring to ‘everyone out there in podcast land’ 🤢”

But it doesn’t work like that.

If it’s not something people care about, you can’t make them care about it, much less agree with your position. (See also climate change, politics, and why pineapple doesn’t belong on pizza.)

That’s not to say you can’t reach people who haven’t made up their minds or haven’t discovered what you’ve known for years… more that you can waste a lot of time and energy trying to convince someone who’s already made their mind up that your observation isn’t important.

(I won’t go on about why my observation is important… I’ve written about that elsewhere.)

So, what can we do?

I’ve expended a lot of energy over the years trying to convince people of a particular position. I first noticed it in my last job (2009-2016) where I was Technical Director to an agency that, at the time, cared far more about how things looked than how elegantly, swiftly, or cost-effectively they ran.

Day after day I tried pushing that rope, until I left and someone else took over and did a much better job… probably because they weren’t trying so hard. From what I gather they’re now highly technically-competent and care about getting all the bits right, not just the stuff that wins design awards.

To the lesson for me is to focus my energy on the people who already get it, or haven’t already taken a position. If someone doesn’t see the importance of what you’re saying, no amount of haranguing is going to get them there, and chances are the more you browbeat them, the more intrenched they’ll get.

It can be tempting for us to think about all those people who don’t “get it”, and see them as potential clients or partners. But politicians don’t focus their efforts on people who fundamentally disagree with them; they play to their base and they look for the undecideds.

Now, I’m not suggesting you don’t advocate for a position. Just don’t sweat it when not everybody sees things the way you do, or is fundamentally moved by the case you made. The ones who get it are your people. The ones that don’t, aren’t. And the ones in-between might just count your next perfect client among their number.

And if they don’t, no sweat. Remind yourself “this is not my task”, breathe deeply, and move on.

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