“Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”That blog post also suggested a social change strategy based on Buckminster Fuller’s observation that,
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”What might less noisy tactics that help build a new model look like?
First, let me suggest an (admittedly simplified) model of the “existing reality” as it pertains to social change tactics.
In the diagram below, we can position allies, opponents, neutrals etc on the chart depending upon whether a group fully supports our position (+++), is completely opposed (- - -) or somewhere between.
Tactically, how do we get more people to recognise, understand, and actively engage with our position?
The first thing to recognise is that is nigh on impossible to get those of the - - - persuasion to leap across the chasm and join the +++.
Even getting those in the middle (0) to suddenly join the +++ would require an enormous amount of effort to climb the gap.
However, getting people or groups to shift a small way on the pendulum (say from – to 0) may be possible.
Facts Don’t Cut It
The second thing to recognise is that, generally speaking, people do not change their views or beliefs because of facts. Indeed, the more the “facts” conflict with the views and beliefs of their circle of friends, acquaintances (or “tribe”) the less likely it is that facts will have any chance to persuade.
James Clear1 noted that
“…social connection is actually more helpful to your daily life than understanding the truth of a particular fact or idea.”Hence, tactically, if we want to “persuade” someone or a group to shift their views or beliefs closer to our own then we need to “engage” rather than “convince.”
This also means that we need to think of what tactics may elicit small shifts on the pendulum.
Assisting a group (or individual) to move from say a 0 to a + is more likely than getting them to shift from 0 to +++. This is indicated visually by the arrows in the diagram below.
This suggests that the most effective tactics are those that engage with people at a companionable, friendly, and mutually respectful level.
This may mean that we need to shift our own “staunchness” a little, perhaps shifting from a ++ position to a + and hence a little closer to someone at 0.
One of the best ways to do this is over a meal. The philosopher Alain de Botton summarised this approach in his book Religion for Atheists2;
“Sitting down at a table with a group of strangers has the incomparable and odd benefit of making it a little more difficult to hate them with impunity.”Engaging Tactics
So, tactics are all about engagement.
There is much more that could be said about social change tactics, but this brief look suggests a way to think about tactics.
Of course, the tactics chosen need to always be aware of your overall strategy. Remember, I am suggesting a strategy of building a new model, rather than tinkering with the existing (a la Bucky Fuller.)
Finally, a word of warning. When entering into an engagement with someone or a group about shifting views and/or beliefs, always be open to shifting your own views and/or beliefs.
1. James Clear is the author of Atomic Habits (pub. Penguin, New York, 2018), a guide to building good habits and breaking bad ones.
2. Alain de Botton, Religion for Atheists, Penguin, London, 2012.