By the author of Be Ready for Anything and the online course Bloom Where You’re Planted
Lately, those who live the preparedness lifestyle have been more concerned than ever about the events going on in the world, and for many of us, the urgency to convince loved ones to prep is at an all-time high as worries increase. The economic collapse of Venezuela, our own shaky markets and banking system, the threat of natural disasters, and worries about cyber attacks all have the potential to become life-changing catastrophes. These are the events we prep for and we clearly understand the ramifications of facing them without the necessary supplies.
And many of us have friends and family without those necessary supplies. Raise your hand if you have ever tried to convince loved ones to prep. Yep, just as I thought. Hands everywhere.
Chances are that when you brought up the topic, your friends and family considered you anywhere on the nuts scale from “a bit eccentric” to “downright certifiable.” If you’ve ever broached the subject with them, the responses were probably one or more of the following:
“I don’t want to sit there and think about the bad things all day long.”
“You don’t need to worry about me.”
“Live a little!”
“If the disaster is that bad, hopefully, I’ll just die in it. Who’d want to live in a world after ***fill in the disaster of your choice***”
“You worry too much.”
“I’ll just come to your house.”
There’s the smug dismissal, the deer-in-headlights fear, the rolled eyes, and the outright denial that anything bad could ever happen to them. There’s the justification of “We keep a case of water in the pantry at all times” and the “I have survival skills” delusion. Most folks just don’t even want to think about it.
So. Incredibly. Frustrating.
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.
So, you have to try.
If you really care about the people in question, you probably feel strongly compelled to talk with them about emergency preparedness. But, how do you convince your loved ones to prep when the idea has never even crossed their minds before?
Why People Won’t Listen
First of all, 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 phenomenon called “cognitive dissonance”.
The phrase “cognitive dissonance” was coined by Dr. Leon Festinger in his book When Prophecy Fails, which was originally published in 1956.When two diverse values collide – the reality of a situation and the moral belief system of the person, it causes mental discomfort that for some people is quite extreme. The person must make alterations to one or the other in order to regain his mental equilibrium. According to Dr. Festinger
Dr. Festinger’s theory states that “dissonance reduction”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.”
- lowering the importance of one of the discordant factors
- adding consonant elements
- changing one of the dissonant factors
This bias sheds light on why people behave in manners that are puzzling, irrational, and even destructive.
It’s very frustrating to watch otherwise intelligent people completely avoid the acceptance of our reality. Those deeply 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 followed by total social failure are incomprehensible to them.
Because of this, no matter how fervently you believe these epic events to be likely in the future, it’s best to water down the reality into manageable bites.
Breaking Them In Gently
When trying to convince loved ones to prep, it’s best to break them into the concept gently. If you go too hardcore survivalist, too doomy, or too outrageous, they’ll simply shut down, as described above, and all of your efforts will be for naught. There are all sorts of ideas for convincing others preparedness is wise. Below, you can find a few ways to introduce the concept.
- Point out weather-related events that have occurred nearby. Everyone has had an experience with the weather that inconvenienced them in some way. Because of this, it’s a disaster that seems more likely than something they’d consider far-fetched or overly dramatic. You can easily provide recent examples, like Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. Other regions are prone to tornadoes, ice storms, snow storms, or earthquakes. 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. Because you can give legitimate and recent examples of these occurrences, this can be a gentle introduction to preparedness. You may be able to build on this base acceptance and begin to help your loved ones begin to extend their supplies. Note: always use mainstream sources when trying to gently nudge someone in the direction of preparedness. Those sources are familiar and to most people, thought to be more accurate and reliable.
- Teach them how building a pantry saves money. 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.
- Send them articles of interest…but don’t go overboard. 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.
- Sometimes fiction can really get people thinking. If your loved one is a bookworm, try giving them the gift of some good prepper fiction. You don’t have to preach to them, “This is what could happen.” Just find a good story that you enjoyed and pass it on as such. Some of my favorites are One Second After, the A. American Survivalist series, and Max Velocity’s Patriot series. If you’re nudging teens in the right direction, this is a list of our favorite books to inspire the preparedness mindset for young people.
- Use movies as launching points for conversations. What could be better than prepper night at the movies? There’s nothing like a good disaster movie to get people contemplating the what-ifs. Host a movie night and invite your friends and family. Be sure that a discussion follows the movie – this can help you to learn what their thoughts are, which can aid you in your persuasive endeavors. Here is a list of 40 survival-oriented movies that might help you devise the evening’s entertainment.
- Buy them preparedness-related gifts. If it’s a person you are very close to, sometimes you can set your mind at ease a little by making certain that they have the supplies that they need on hand. Buy them supplies that they can stick in a closet and forget, like buckets of emergency food. If you’re feeling really generous, add some water, a filter, and an emergency cooking method to keep them fed and hydrated, if not completely prepared. Create an emergency kit for their car, put a multitool or Sawyer Mini filter in their Christmas stockings, or give them a pocket survival guide (this is my favorite) to stash in their purse or backpack.
- Use a coaching approach. Instead of simply telling someone what to do, let them arrive at their own decisions with some gentle nudging in the right direction. Read this article for more information on coaching others to prep.
What If They Won’t Listen?
Unfortunately, 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 to drive a wedge between you and those you love. Sometimes, you have to know when to give up.
But that isn’t the worst of it. Remember back in the intro to this article, that casual statement that makes every prepper grit his or her teeth?
“I don’t need to prep. I’ll just come to your house.”
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 absolutely no compunction turning away unprepared family members when disaster strikes, because they spent years warning them to get ready. This is a choice that you may have to make one day, and there is no “one size fits all” answer.
If you allow unprepared loved ones to come to your house, that means there are fewer supplies for your immediate family. You’ll be sharing whatever you have and it won’t stretch for as long a period of time. As well, if they are unprepared despite your best efforts, there could be other problems down the line, like wastefulness, folks who talk too much (and to the wrong people), and loved ones who just don’t grasp the importance of every decision in an emergency. What if they can’t accept the necessity for armed self-defense? This could cause a lot of discord, and even be life-threatening if the situation is dire.
On the other hand, the guilt of turning people away will be too much for some folks to handle. Many hands make lighter work, so if the family members will do their fair share or if they have special skills, then having them at your retreat will probably be worth the division of supplies. Plus, family is family. Sometimes you have to go beyond the call of duty for those you love.
This is not something that should be decided at the spur of the moment when adrenaline is running high. To make a rational choice, it is important to discuss this among the decision-makers of your household and present a unified front, whichever 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?