Posts Tagged stories

How to become a true believer

A key question many of us face, in any career field, is:  When people don’t initially believe in what you’re saying, how can you get people to believe? Really believe? Believe enough that they’ll change behavior?

Find a way for them to experience your issue for themselves. Truly experience it.

Push beyond exposing people to someone else’s story or testimonial. That’s not really experiencing it for themselves. Instead engineer a situation or event where people go through an experience, and feel the results with as many of their senses as possible — yes — touch, sight, smell, taste, sound. And engage both emotion and logic.

Certainly for some issues this is easier to do than for others. It might be easier for simpler behaviors. But with creativity, we should try to find ways.

This week I had an experience that changed my belief in this way. And from a very unusual source for public health inspiration — wine glasses! Here’s what happened …

I’ve always been skeptical of catalogs selling varietal-specific wine glasses. Like many people, we’ve used “white glasses” and “red glasses” from Crate & Barrel, plus a few special glasses that obviously must be different shapes for champagne and after dinner drinks like port and vin santo. I thought the huge number of Riedel varietal-specific glasses were just a way to give people a reason to buy more glasses. After all, most people with higher disposable income already have enough glasses for their needs. So to get them to buy more, you must create a reason to make them think they need to buy more. Wa-la — why not tell them they need different glasses for all the variety of wines they drink?

I believed this was only a marketing ploy until my husband and I were in Austin this week and attended a demo of varietal-specific wine glasses, run by the patriarch of the Riedel glass family, at Max’s Wine Dive. We got tickets mostly because we would get sets of Riedel glasses worth more than the cost of the tickets (the brand was a factor, varietal specific was not), learn a bit more about wine, drink some good wines, and have a fun night out. A classic reason based on economics (that logic would be my husband’s reason, honestly!) + emotion (my reason – Riesling, Pinot Noir, yum, fun!). 

Well. Did our world of wine ever change this week!

We were given a set of four glasses specifically designed for Rieslings, Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs and Cabernet Sauvignons. Georg Riedel had us sample the Riesling and Chardonnay in their proper glasses and both were fantastic wines. Although both are white wines, each has very different flavors to deliver and he explained how the chemistry of the wines is paired with the physics of different shaped glasses. I admit I was still skeptical at this point. Then we poured the Riesling in the Chardonnay glass, and the Chardonnay in the Riesling glass. Wonderful wines now became … yuck! One turned bitter, the other lifeless, flavorless. People looked around at each other in amazement.

This went on for over an hour, sampling wines in glasses tailored to deliver a particular varietal’s strong points, then pouring the wine in other glasses. By the end we must have tried every wine in every glass. For the first time ever, I completely enjoyed a Cabernet Sauvignon. The tannins were de-emphasized and the flavor fully blossomed. It was an eye-opener, that I might actually like cabs. It seemed everyone around me savored and lingered on that wine. Then, we poured the Cabernet Sauvignon in another glass. People sputtered, spat, spit!! Ick!! A beautiful wine was destroyed in this other glass.

Through the two hours, the demo was focused on engaging all of our senses. We even used sound, when he demonstrated the exchange of carbon dioxide with oxygen in a decanter. And the logical appeal came from the information about how we taste, what each wine naturally and uniquely delivers with taste, and how each glass is designed to enhance each varietal’s unique qualities. I could hear my husband’s calculator-like brain that likes numbers literally clicking when Georg Riedel asked us to think about how much we might spend on wine over a year, and how many of those do we like and not like. It’s hit or miss sometimes. What if you could increase the hit rate? So there were points to appeal to the different things people in the audience might value.

If someone tried to “sell” me on believing this by just talking to me about it, or if I had only read about it, I would not have “bought into” it. We’re marketed to so much in our American consumer culture, we must set up defenses against some marketing and messaging. We defend ourselves against messages that are trying to do some good for us, such as public health and safety messages. It takes much more than just talking to us or showing us other people tasting wines to believe in this for ourselves — to truly internalize the experience so we adopt a new belief for ourselves.

Mr. Riedel may have to do a little bit more work on my beliefs though — I do wonder if the demo chose the four glasses that highlight the most dramatic flavor swings from “yum” to “yuck.” Maybe other glasses don’t deliver so much advantage? And maybe the wines we drank were a carefully-chosen factor. With Rieslings, for one, there’s a huge range from super sweet to very dry. Couldn’t this be affected by the glass? Surely we’ll do our own demos with the glasses in our kitchen cabinets. Blind taste tests would be fun, to see what happens. Public health education folks may recognize my questions and conflict as a Stages of Change issue. There’s some more convincing to do — some barriers to overcome — before I would choose to purchase even more glasses. I’m now thinking about it due to the demo, but not ready to take action yet.

But one behavior did clearly change already. We used our new Riesling glasses from the demo already — last night we made spicy Indian food in honor of Diwali, the Indian Festival of Lights (for India, it’s like Christmas, New Year’s and Fourth of July all rolled into one big exciting holiday). Riesling is perfect to tone down the kick of spicy foods. It’s especially good with spicy Asian foods.

But you probably won’t believe me until you try that for yourself.   ;)

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The emotional power of stories

Pictures of puppies and kittens are surefire sellers. But what about pigs, roosters, cows, goats? How do you make people care about what happens to these animals, and possibly change their behavior to save them?

Seen on The Animal Planet:  This ad “What if we were served the truth?” for

Note the website name. “Try veg.” Instead of “go veg” or “be veg.” Just try it, they ask. Their target audience is people who eat meat, so they offer a PDF Starter Guide to show how to try vegetarian meals. It talks about vegetarian foods that are substitutes for meat. This suggestion to substitute a veggie burger for a beef  burger, and swap meat-free chicken-flavor nuggets for the real thing, makes it easy to prepare the same meals we usually prepare, but with simple substitutes. It makes behavior change easier.

So, great to know it’s easy, but why should we care? The Guide includes education about health as well as the animal farming industry and what happens to the animals we eat. Here are more of the campaign’s TV ads.

I don’t know who funds, but I have visited The Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, New York which has a similar education message. All animals are rescued farm animals, and I learned things new to me, like the close relationship between a mother cow and her calves, and how it’s painful for them to be separated and have that bond broken. All Sanctuary animals have names and stories. The Farm Sanctuary’s stories make you care about animals that you never thought much of before. After all, these are animals that usually live on farms, not in our homes. Not all are super cuddly. But the stories make me think twice about eating meat, like the stories about animals that ran from slaughterhouses and wound up, to their good luck, spending the rest of their lives in the rolling hills and big beautiful meadows at the Sanctuary. 

As one story, meet cute ‘lil Bob Harper, a piglet. This poor guy fell out of a truck on an Illinois freeway. If he hadn’t fallen off that truck, he would have been slaughtered for food at six months old. But now, Sanctuary staff say he is “making us laugh by crazily spinning around his hospital stall and shaking his blankets with his mouth like a puppy with a chew toy!” No matter how good bacon tastes, this guy plays like a puppy! Oh the conflict!

I didn’t meet pigs at the Sanctuary because swine flu was going around at the time, but I did meet turkeys. They’re ugly! But they must think they’re photogenic because when they see you and your camera, they are hams. One turkey saw us and came over and strutted and pranced and really put on a show for us. It was really cute. I could see his personality. I’m glad he won’t ever be on anyone‘s table for Thanksgiving.

Those of us in Illinois might remember the story earlier this year about a truck carrying cows that crashed and cows were crushed and burned and some survivors were wandering around a freeway after the crash. All surviving cows except one were loaded on another truck for slaughter. But one critically-burned cow was forgotten. Here he is, Jay the bull cow, moving into his new home where he is recovering at the Farm Sanctuary. His fellow cow neighbors touch his nose and give him kisses over the fence! His caregivers say he is thrilled to be around other cows and he loves to run.

Hearing these stories, seeing their pictures and meeting the animals, it makes a difference in what we might think about them.

A few more Sanctuary stories:

  • Two “escapegoats” Isadora & Duncan, only a few months old, saved from dangerous New York City streets. Extremely loyal to each other, they cry loudly if they are apart for even a few seconds, signifying the deep emotional bond forged by their shared adventure.
  • Faith the infertile cow with no value to the dairy industry is saved – her life does have value! Now affectionately known as the “exfoliator” for her endearing habit of excitedly approaching her caregivers and licking their hands and faces when she sees them.
  • Jade and Indigo, best friend chickens saved from a meth lab. The Sanctuary reports that opposites must attract — Jade is a spunky fiesty firecracker, very outgoing among the chickens, and Indigo is a calm, tranquil rooster whose feathers don’t get ruffled.


So what do you think about Isadora, Duncan, Faith and Indigo now?


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