Monday, September 09, 2013

Do we need stories to change our mind?

Wow big election weekend over. It was great to take part in the democratic process of choosing the next Australian government in a range of ways.

I lobbied for issues that I considered important in the weeks leading up to the election. I voted including the 80 odd below the line preferences for the Senate. I handed out policy scorecards for GetUp encouraging people to make their choices by taking into account important social and environmental issues rather than personalities and I handed out how to vote cards for my current favourite political party.

All of this happened in an atmosphere of relative peace and consideration for others. Mind you I did witness one voter give supporters of one party a really violent tongue lashing outside a polling booth. It was quite a surprise.

How do people change their minds and do something different to what they normally do.

Here's an interesting article that suggests that people need appropriate stories to encourage that shift from the habitual to the new.

www.stevenpressfield.com/2013/08/stories-are-about-change/

I don't agree with everything that Shawn Coyne says about those changes but it is worth a read.

It is clear to me that stories can help us change habits or help us make a decision.

What would make a story more effective in this way?

I suspect that the story should be one in which the listener can see themselves as one of the characters in the story. That character should be one that cuts through the accumated distress and well worn grooves of life. It might remind the listener of the person they once were before they got trapped in their current persona. It might remind the story listener of the person they dream they would like to be, if only ...

And the narrative should show someone overcoming a challenge and succeeding in change.

The example that Shawn Coyne quotes from 'The Examined Life' by Stephen Grosz is of the woman who survived the Twin Towers destruction because she was prepared to leave all of her personal baggage behind in the office and exit as soon as possible while others went back to try and save personal effects or stick to prearranged commitments. It is a good story to demonstrate the effect.

I wonder what story the new Australian government managed to tell those people who voted for them? I find it a bit hard to crystalise but it seemed to revolve around how bad the central characters of the old government were for the country. It worked even though the previous government had actually had a good economic record, achieved positive change with some major projects and served a full term in a challenging minority government situation.

I wonder what effect the new government will have on the arts and on education? It will be interesting to watch the story unfold.


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