If you’re a parent or an employer, you know the power of because I said so. You have probably also observed the difference between someone doing something because they have to and doing it because they want to. When people do something because they have no choice they will usually do it reluctantly and to the minimum level required. When people do something because they want to they are more likely to do a good job, and to do it thoroughly. They are also more likely to keep doing it, or to be interested in a related activity.
Even if we could make people prepare for emergencies, research shows that it might not be the best option. That’s not just because of the how well or how much they might do. Doing something because you have to (called introjection) increases the stress related to the task.Doing something because you think it’s a good idea (called integration) reduces stress. The goal of preparing for emergencies ahead of time is to reduce stress as much as possible, so that we can stay clear headed and make the best possible decisions about our own safety.
There are a lot of reasons you might want to do something that’s not necessarily enjoyable: because it’s the right thing to do, because it makes your family more secure, because it helps others, because it’s challenging, etc. Understanding those reasons can help us motivate people to prepare for emergencies. Our preparedness outreach should aim for integration. We want people to look at preparing in a positive light, and to understand and believe in the benefits.
There is one more alternative to integration and introjection, and that’s denial. It’s refusing to do anything. Denial before a disaster usually takes the form of saying that it could never happen. Denial during a disaster is more dangerous. Deniers will ignore warnings and safety instructions. They may insist that it isn’t as bad as they are being told. When confronted with the reality of the disaster they may shut down completely and be unable or unwilling to help themselves or others.
Getting deniers to take preparedness steps isn’t about convincing them that something could happen (which is at its core a negative message), it’s about finding the other benefits of the activity. That might be helping others, calming a family member’s anxiety, ensuring a pet’s safety, getting credit at work, getting out and socializing, saving money—be creative (but realistic) when highlighting benefits.
When people choose to take steps to prepare they are more likely to do them well, they will be less likely to be stressed by the thought (or the reality) of an emergency, and they might just enjoy themselves.
Check out www.do1thing.com for an emergency preparedness program that is easy and inexpensive, or find another emergency preparedness program that works for you.