One of the comments we often hear at Off the Grid News is a complaint that many of you find it hard to persuade your families to come on board in preparing for hardship and disaster. Is it possible that in some of our homes we have mini revolutions being waged, with words flying like bombs over the barricades? No doubt many of you who read this article are facing challenging situations as you seek to stock up and prepare. But if we hope to prepare well, we must prepare together. In this article and those to follow, I want to trace out some of the mistakes we make trying to lead others into wise preparation and then offer some ideas on how we might turn the tide and begin to win our loved ones and neighbors to the cause. My thinking here has developed in reflection upon the wisdom found in Ken Blanchard’s book The One Minute Manager. His insights strike me as wonderfully applicable (not to mention, biblical), and I highly recommend his book.
More Honey than Vinegar
One of those ancient pieces of wisdom handed down from grandfather to father to son says, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Maybe you learned it in some other variation, but the sum and substance of that wise piece of wit is that you will be more persuasive if you speak and act with kindness and love than if you present a face of anger and disrespect. There are a few of us who respond well to the “drill sergeant in the face” approach, complete with the free-flung saliva. Most of us, however, respond better to the gentle hand.
There is a common stereotype of those of us in the survivalist community that might best be expressed by a caricature of a hillbilly with a shotgun and a rather severe expression. My extended family comes from the mountain region of Arkansas, so I know that caricature of “hillbilly” is often false. Is it a false picture of most survivalists? I hope so. However, there’s no denying that’s how many of our neighbors (and perhaps some of our own household) see us. Those of us concerned enough to prepare and to be ready in case the grid goes down or some other disaster befalls us have gotten lots of bad publicity. If those around us perceive us as panicky, hyper-anxious, and bossy folk, is it any wonder we find it difficult to convince them to join us? If that’s the opinion you’re husband or wife or children have formed, you’re going to be paddling against a strong current to get them to follow. If you hope to be persuasive in winning your family and friends, you will have to destroy this false image. You will have to become a persuasive preparer.
Become a Persuasive Preparer
A persuasive preparer is generous and gracious, not grumpy and armed to the teeth, at least not when it concerns dealing with members of his own household. There is a simple rule of nature here. People follow those whom they hope to be like. Your family will come along when they see you as a leader worth following. How can we destroy the stereotype and replace it with a truer and better understanding? How can we find success in convincing our families and our neighbors of the wisdom of what we’re trying to do? We start by changing the way we present ourselves and our concerns to those closest to us.
You can see the dynamics I have in mind in families with small children. Look at the way the parents handle the bad behavior of their kids in the grocery store. You can learn a lot. Those who resort to rash, angry discipline are never as effective as those who employ loving, firm correction. It is the same in marriages. A wife who berates her husband and always points out his flaws must not be surprised when her husband retreats into more of the very behavior she wants him to abandon. The husband who is harsh and sullen will seldom find his wife readily following his lead. Loving respect, on the other hand, works wonders.
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Catch Them Doing Something Right
One of the most important ways of presenting this love and respect in families, as in every other sphere of life, is by watching to catch the other doing what is right. We are all well practiced in noticing our neighbor’s faults. It takes a great deal more care and energy to catch him doing good. But this is key. Even feeble efforts at doing right must be rewarded. We all raise the bar far too high for good behavior while we have the most delicate detectors for any offense, don’t we?
If you are laboring to bring your wife along in working to prepare your family for empty grocery shelves or other shortages, you need to encourage her in every small act. If your wife brings home three pounds of rice because the rice was on sale, praise her for it. “Sweetie, that’s what I’ve been asking! Thank you!” See how much easier it will be to get her to “stock up” next time. If your husband is dragging his feet, don’t point out his long list of failures; instead, look for opportunities to catch him making choices or performing acts that show he’s coming along. Small progress praised will lead to greater progress. As my dad used to ask me when facing a large job, “How do you eat an elephant, son?” I would reply by rote, “One bite at a time, Dad.” The regular application of gentle encouragement for small successes is the best way to win large battles. Need I state that these same dynamics work with your neighbors, your boss, or your co-workers?
I am not suggesting that there are not times and places for correction and even rebuke. Indeed, the Bible demands that we must perform those duties toward one another. What I am saying is that those who would lead and persuade others must major on the honey and go easy on the vinegar.
Put Away Panic
The greatest danger faced by those undergoing the stresses of a disaster is the temptation to fall into panic. When a man or woman feels the ground moving under their feet it is not unusual for their good manners (if they had any) to suffer. People under stress are more likely to “blow their top” or “come unglued.” That’s a great way to get yourself hurt or even killed in a disaster. In a dangerous situation, you want to keep your head. Maybe it’s only me, but I fear that sometimes I’ve practiced panic by merely imagining the dangers to come. Is it possible that I’m not alone? If so, if we’re trying to persuade our loved ones and neighbors to prepare for danger and are exuding a spirit of panic, is it any wonder they turn and run the other way? You must begin as you mean to continue. If you hope to be calm and prepared when the grid fails, then practice that calm in the way you seek to lead in preparations.
One final word of warning – you must not seek to bring others along in preparations or in anything else with artificial “honey.” You must be genuine. Your praise for progress made must be heartfelt. No one likes to be manipulated. No one enjoys being the object of a phony “sales pitch” from a loved one. Love must be real. You cannot persuade others to stock up or do without unless you demonstrate to them that you have their true and best interests at heart.
©2012 Off the Grid News