After the 2016 election, there were protests across the country. Riots. Some of the worst were in Oakland CA. They lasted five days.
Then a group healers held a peaceful event in the Bay Area call “Hands Around Lake Merritt.” It started as a few friends, and it became around 10,000 people. And afterwards the riots nearby stopped.
I’m not suggesting they caused the riots to end. I don’t even know how’d you’d prove such a thing if it happened.
However, persuasion is a very powerful thing. Right now the country is deeply divided. This event may be worth looking at from a persuasion perspective to see what sort of words, actions, and attitudes might help bring the country back together.
Disclosure: The organizers of this event are good friends of mine. Because of that, I’ve been given more insight into their way of thinking then a typical reporter might have.
Don Ramer, one of the organizers, explains their thinking here (edited down from a longer conversation):
The basic theory behind the event was simple: What you resist persists. If you throw a lot of energy into protest, telling someone they are evil, bigoted, wrong, etc. then you’ll only cause them to become more defensive.
If you create an event affirming what you do believe in – peace, inclusion, tolerance – and hold the event in a way that is aligned with those values, then you give your so-called “opponents” the room to say “we agree with those values too” and join you in that new space.
This event follows a few persuasion principles:
One of the six principles Robert Cialdini outlines in his seminal book Influence is consistency. We want our actions to be consistent with our values. An event like this forces both sides to be consistent.
For the anti-Trump protesters – you say want to create a world with greater peace and tolerance? Then act like it.
For the Trump supporters – you say you are not the people portrayed in the mainstream media? Then act like it.
It invites both sides to become congruent around their shared values, and shift from activities that cause conflict to looking for ways they can affirm what they really want.
Go There First
There is a principle in hypnosis that you have to “go there first.” If you shift your state, you can draw other people into.
Ever had someone who was angry start talking to you, and you started feeling angry too for no reason? That’s an example of “going there first” working in a bad way. But it can work for any state.
If you want a more peaceful world, you have to find peace within yourself and “go there first.” Once you do, you can start drawing other people into that state.
The organizers of this event went there first. Then they drew all their friends into their peace. Then their community. Then their city.
If you don’t think this is possible, imagine the opposite. Could one angry person draw a few people, and then a crowd into their state? Isn’t that how riots start?
We’ve had riots around the country. Let’s use this group mind for a more positive change.
Pacing & Leading
Pacing and leading is a hypnosis technique where you say things that are obviously true to get your audience to buy where you want to lead them. So right now you are breathing (pace), while reading this article (pace), and you’re really deeply considering what I have to say (lead). The first two are obviously true – if you weren’t breathing you’d be dead, and you’re obviously reading this – but the second is a lead. Maybe you’re not really thinking much about what I have to say. However, because the first two statements were obviously true, you’re more likely to accept the first someone.
Calling someone a “racist” isn’t persuasive because it doesn’t pace anyone’s reality. Most people don’t think of themselves as racists, and the ones that do don’t really care what you have to say. Trying to lead before you pace can close the door to persuasion.
Listen to Don speaking again. He is looking for the values that we all share in common.
I know my blog is read by both people who are very pro and anti Trump. Aren’t all of you still nodding when he says we care about peace?
If you’re pro-Trump, aren’t you more open to dialogue with these people then the rioters? If you’re anti-Trump, doesn’t this seem much more easeful then yelling at people in red hats?
Why I’m Writing About This
I’m writing about this because I have friend on both sides. I’ve generally considered political disagreement secondary to friendship.
However, this past election season I’ve seen a few people get programmed by the media into believing that anyone who disagrees with them must be evil. People have even ended friendships over the election. While it’s a testament to the power of media persuasion, on a personal level it’s harmful.
I think there may be a model here for shifting political discourse in the country. It’s a first pass, that I’m certain will evolve over time. But I like the direction it’s headed.
If you’re interested in shifting the world around another controversial issue, check out my upcoming documentary, currently on Kickstarter.
Many great people have supported the film, but our Kickstarter ends Wednesday, so contribute here.