The Persuasive Prepper:
Convincing Loved Ones to Prepare
If you are a prepper, chances are that you have friends and family who consider you anywhere on the “nuts” scale from a bit eccentric to downright certifiable.
This viewpoint, of course, makes it very difficult for you to talk with these loved ones and bring them over to the “dark side” of preparedness with you. It’s painful to see people about whom you care, blithely going along, spending money frivolously, buying their groceries a couple of days at a time, and living in places that are totally unsustainable should disaster strike.
Why People Won’t Listen
It’s important to understand why your loved ones see the world through rose-colored glasses. While they are busy casting mental health disorder epithets your way, it is actually the people who refuse to accept reality who are suffering from a psychological phenomena called “cognitive dissonance”.
Cognitive dissonance (a phrase coined in the book When Prophecy Fails, by Dr. Leon Festinger) describes the mental discomfort that a person feels when faced with two diverse values – the reality of a situation and the moral belief system of the person collide. When this occurs, the person must make alterations to one or the other in order to regain his equilibrium. According to Dr. Festinger theory, “people engage in a process he termed “dissonance reduction”, which can be achieved in one of three ways: lowering the importance of one of the discordant factors, adding consonant elements, or changing one of the dissonant factors. This bias sheds light on otherwise puzzling, irrational, and even destructive behavior.”
It’s very frustrating to watch otherwise intelligent people completely avoid the acceptance of our reality. Those deep into cognitive dissonance are simply NOT going to come around by hearing you preach to them. If anything, it will only drive them further away from you. The concept of, for example, a long term disaster like and EMP or an economic collapse are incomprehensible to them. Because of this, no matter how fervently you believe these things to be likely in the future, it’s best to water down the reality into manageable bites.
Breaking Them In Gently
Many people find it easier to accept the likelihood of a weather-related disaster that might knock the power out for a few days to a week. You can easily provide recent examples, like Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. For those in regions where events like this occur, you can often persuade your loved ones to stock in at least a 2 week supply. Other regions are prone to ice storms, snow storms or earthquakes. This can be a gentle introduction to preparedness. Clearly, a two week supply is not enough to weather a long-term disaster. However you may be able to build on this base acceptance and begin to help your loved ones begin to extend their supplies.
Another great tactic is promoting the economic logic behind a well-stocked pantry. Prices are only going up – it doesn’t take a prepper to see this. If you can convince someone of the investment value of a food supply, sometimes you can persuade them to prep without them even realizing that is what they are doing. Then, when that supply comes in handy during a disaster event or a personal period of economic hardship, you can gently reinforce the lesson.
Sending gentle nudges via email is sometimes helpful, but inundating a non-prepper with preparedness advice will generally fall upon deaf ears. Repetition of preparedness concepts without the scare tactics can help break through the normalcy bias, but it is important to limit yourself within the tolerance level of the person with whom you are communicating. Remember, you do not want to be the Jehovah’s Witness of preparedness, knocking on the door during dinnertime while the non-prepper pretends not to be home.
Unfortunately, for the most part, you have to realize there isn’t a lot you can do to convince others that preparing is vital. People have to come to their own realizations, just the way you did. You have to accept that constantly harping on preparedness will do nothing more than drive a wedge between you and those you love.
What If They Won’t Listen?
As a prepper, you have to make a difficult decision. Are you going to prepare for a few extra people, adding supplies and making room for them when the SHTF? Or are you going to go about your preparedness business quietly, embracing OPSEC and building up your supplies with only your immediate family members in mind? Some people state that they have no compunction turning away unprepared family members when disaster strikes, because they spent years warning them to get ready. This is a choice that most preppers have to make, and there are no “one size fits all” answers. It is important to discuss this among the decision-makers of your household and present a unified front, which ever conclusion you reach.
Have you been able to help friends and family see the writing on the wall? If so, how were you able to convince them that it was time to get ready? If not, are you preparing for extra people or are you planning on locking the doors?