Meeting people where they are: it matters

Written by: Miri
January 21, 2024
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Imagine, if you will, that you were a piano teacher, recruiting for new students...

Whilst your melodious marketing endeavours might attract the occasional attentions of an already highly adept musician who simply wanted to brush up on their skills, on the whole, the people who seek the tuition of piano teachers are those who have very little or no knowledge of how to play the piano.

Imagine, then, that your first student turns up - somebody who is obviously interested in the piano (hence their attendance at your abode) - but who doesn't have even the most rudimentary knowledge of how to play it.

Would you, as a seasoned and accomplished professional, used to successfully imparting knowledge and skill to the far less experienced, ever hit them with:

"Right, we're going to go straight in with Stravinsky's Trois mouvements de Petrouckha [widely considered to be one of the most difficult pieces of classical piano to learn]. and I'll be putting you in for the Grade 8 exam tomorrow" - ?

Or are you going to start with teaching them their chords and Three Blind Mice, understanding they have to pass through the prerequisite and elementary stages before they can even begin to tackle anything more complex?

The answer is obvious, and so it is with learning anything.

When you 'awoke' - when you realised that mainstream institutions lie and life isn't what you thought it was - did it happen overnight? Did you go instantly from unquestioning normie who watches the news (that is, as a serious broadcast rather than as satirical comedy...), to fully-fledged consummate conspiracist, willing to genuinely contemplate whether the Queen might be a lizard roaming the plains of the flat Earth?

No, of course not (and I'm not suggesting we are all lizard-legitimising globe-deniers, merely that these are the far reaches of the conspira-verse that you typically don't encounter until you have been in it for a while).

The way we learn is much more incremental than that, and our knowledge and understanding gradually evolves over time, depending on what we're emotionally and cognitively ready for.

It is an absolute fact that if you hit someone with too much too fast, they will simply shut down. This is hardwired human psychology, and is very well known throughout marketing and advertising industries (the professions singularly focused on persuasively selling ideas to people, and that the ruling classes make much use of). Successful PR companies know that if you want to hold someone's attention and successfully begin to reframe their perceptions about something and get them to consider something new, you must not overwhelm them with too much at once.

You must go at their speed. You must meet them where they are, rather than insisting they instantly come to you - if, that is, you genuinely want to convince them of anything, rather than simply desiring a soap box to platform your own "superior knowledge".

I trained as a digital copywriter (writing websites and other online resources), and the one thing we had to tell literally every client almost without exception was:

"There's way too much detail on your existing website. You're going into the intricacies of a subject a lot of your potential customers don't even know the basics of. You're putting people off by overloading them with loo much at once."

And they all reported that once their website was dramatically slimmed down and pitched at a less "expert" level, that their custom dramatically picked up.

Equally, the experienced piano teacher - although they may be of professional standard themselves - understands that giving a complex concerto to a novice isn't the way to teach them the piano, even though the end goal may be to eventually get them there. You start at the beginning, you start slow, and you gradually make progress at the pupil's pace.

So following from that, if those of us who consider ourselves to be to any degree "awake" want to convince other people of the merits of some of our arguments, we have to know how to do it and how to frame it in a way that works.

(Obviously, this is possible, as the existence of millions of "conspiracy theorists" who were once "normies" attests.)

Although there are a subsection of evangelical normies who seem completely unreachable (the 'wearing a mask alone in a car' brigade), there is a much bigger section of society who are not completely closed off and who do have the capacity to change their views. The "moveable middle", as they're known. People who have scepticisms and suspicions about the mainstream, but who wouldn't mecessarily ally themselves with the "conspiracy fringe" (not yet, anyway...).

An illustrative example: I am a member of the longstanding, very successful natural health group, Arnica, which has tens of thousands of members, and its main focus is to support parents in making natural (rather than pharmaceutical) health choices for their child.

In the ten years or so I have been in the Arnica group, I have seen some variation of the following question literally hundreds, if not thousands, of times:

"I don't feel comfortable about getting my baby all these vaccines, my gut is telling me there's something wrong with them, but I also don't want them to get measles or some other disease and get really ill. What should I do?"

Now, let me tell you something for a certain fact based on years of experience: if you approach that scared parent like a bull in a china shop with,

"Well, there's no such things as viruses. It's never been proven viruses exist, see Stefan Lanka, so vaccines are all a fraud and you just shouldn't get any."

That parent will shut down quicker than an off-licence in Afghanistan.

It's way too far out of their current frame of reference. They will interpret you as being completely insane, a fruitcake lunatic who is putting their child in danger.

Parents of young children observe phenomena like chicken pox and various bugs appearing to sweep through classrooms, afflicting multiple children in the same space at the same time, and so trying to tell them viruses don't exist will come across as delusional, as it will be interpreted as you saying the phenomena of multiple children getting ill at the same time doesn't exist.

If you then try and explain yourself by saying "this isn't caused by contagious viruses, but rather by bodies influencing each other to perform the same functions at the same time, like menstrual synchronising" - you have actually done nothing to quell the parental fear, because (if they are still talking to you at that point), they will say,

"Well, I don't care if you call it contagion or influence. The point is I don't want my child to get that dangerous condition."

So that is not how you approach it.

Rather, you try and both allay the fear of measles (and the "no virus" purists can bang on as much as they like about "the measles virus not existing", but the fact is that a condition we call measles exists, and that's what parents are afraid of), as well as explaining the ways the vaccine is both dangerous and ineffective.

That's what works, and I emphasise again: are you interested in actually doing what works - in successfully convincing people to change their minds on key (sometimes life or death) issues - or are you just interested in indulging your own vanity and harping on and on about your pet position?

I am using intentionally incendiary language there because I want the well-intentioned people who have got too laser-focused on the "no virus" issue to really ask themselves why they are so focused on it, and why they (many of them) get so aggressively intolerant towards those of us who hold positions such as mine? (And I actually don't believe in the contagion model, so spare a thought for those poor individuals who "dare" to still believe in viruses! Perish the thought they may actually just have a different view - better to simply assume they are all pharma gatekeeping shills in the pockets of Bill Gates, because that will definitely be an effective way of opening mutually respectful dialogue and progressing the discussion.)

What I notice relentlessly about the "no virus" lobby (certainly not all of them, but enough to make it a significant trend) is that they display no empathy at all with where other people are, whilst aggressively insisting other people must meet them exactly where they are immediately ("there is no virus and that's all that matters! Anyone saying anything different is a gatekeeping shill!").

They cannot put themselves in the other person's shoes, or comprehend the possibility that someone else might have a legitimately different view - it's just straight to the "pharma shill propping up pharma" jibes (and that's when they're being polite).

This really does come from a place of a lack of empathy, and empathy as a concept is misunderstood. It's not some slushy lovey-dovey emotion solely the preserve of New Agey types who insist they are all "empaths" (able to literally, physically feel other people's emotions) - it simply means being able to internalise the idea that other people are different to you and see things differently, and that - if you want to successfully persuade them of anything - you have to be able to empathise with where they are now and work from there.

A parent who is expressing concern about, for instance, their child contracting measles, needs to have that fear allayed in a way that will work. Telling them "there is no virus" won't work, for the reasons I explained earlier. Fundamentally, frightened mothers and fathers actually don't care if "there's a virus", they care about their child becoming seriously ill, whatever the cause of the illness, and what they can do about it.

Conversely, then, explaining to them that measles is no longer a serious illness and that all debilitating effects associated with it were effectively eradicated by modern plumbing, and showing the evidence that verifies this, is far more likely to work, especially when you also share with them all the many very serious risks associated with the measles (MMR) vaccination.

There's also the fact that a history of childhood illnesses like measles correlates with a lower risk of far more serious conditions like heart disease later on, so measles isn't actually a process that it is desirable to stop. All children once "routinely" got conditions like measles and mumps for a reason.

There, you have some lines of argument that are far more likely to actually work with reassuring a terrified parent, and giving them the confidence not to vaccinate, which is the most important thing. Please note that the anti-vaccine movement has tens of thousands of adherents worldwide who do believe in the existence of viruses: they simply don't fear them, so are immune to state propaganda trying to weaponise fear as a way to manipulate submission to injection.

That's why the most important thing is to tackle and dismantle the fear parents have, in an effective way (explaining why the condition in question is nothing to fear).

Once you have done that, and they have become less scared and have begun to delve more deeply into the subject, then they might be more receptive to a discussion about "deeper dive" issues, such as the existence or otherwise of contagious viruses.

But if it's the first thing you hit them with, you'll lose them for good, just like if a piano teacher hit a beginner student with complex compositions far beyond their grasp, the student would never come back.

This is not about "hiding the truth" or any such sensationalist nonsense, it's simply about knowing your audience, which any half-decent speaker, teacher, writer, or other successful promoter of ideas must do.

For instance, my website that you are reading right now is called 'Miri AF' - my name. That is because my website reflects my personal views, and the target audience is people who broadly share them. Whilst we may disagree on the micro level about specific details, our overall worldview - that mainstream institutions constantly lie and promote false narratives - is the same.

So, when I'm writing for this audience, I use a different tone and style to when writing for my other resource, Informed Consent Matters (not my name - because it's a separate and distinct entity to me, and I am not the only person involved in its production).

The Informed Consent Matters resource was developed specifically - not to reflect me and my views (I have Miri AF for that) - but to act as a "bridge" for those who are starting to question "the official line" on things like vaccines, masks, and tests - and I was acutely aware that if I made the language too "conspiratorial", those people would instantly shut down and dismiss the resource. And if your target audience is dismissing the resource you've created to try to reach them, your resource is obviously pointless.

Therefore, I very carefully made an effort to write it in a style that would communicate important facts to the questioning moveable middle, without "scaring them away" in the first two lines.

If, for instance, I began my vaccines page with "all vaccines are a sinister fraud which do nothing but poison people", the people the resource is aimed at would not read any further and would immediately dismiss the resource.

That's not how you get people to open their minds. Statements that are too confrontational and too un-empathic with where your audience currently are at, shut people off, they don't win them over.

Like I said, it depends on what the purpose of your resource is. The purpose of my Miri AF resource is to share my thoughts with like-minded people, I certainly don't expect it to appeal to any devout normies (although I know I have a few such hate-fans who read it merely to confirm to themselves how completely, irretrievably insane I actually am... and you are all very welcome!).

But with Informed Consent Matters, I (and my co-founder) felt it was important to create another kind of resource, something that could act as an olive branch to reach out to those thousands of people (more every day) who are starting to get suspicious and ask questions about certain things, but who don't know where to go to get information that's presented in a clear and accessible way, without going too far too fast.

Maybe some people are tempted to say, "forget those people. If they're not awake now, they never will be", and write them all off. But I'm not prepared to do that, because we were all there once, and what's more, it's not just about them: more often than not, they're making decisions for children, as well, and we can't write off a whole generation of children simply because their parents aren't adequately informed - we must work to make them informed, in a way that is effective to encourage them to make the right choices.

The other purpose of Informed Consent Matters is to give "awake" people the ammunition they need when fighting against immoral and unlawful 'restrictions' being imposed on them by e.g., their employers.

For example, many people have contacted me who are fighting against vaccine or (more usually) mask and test mandates at work. I want to help these people successfully overcome these restrictions so they can keep their jobs and ability to make a living, yet what I have noticed in this area is that, again, with many of the "awake", there's an empathy deficit.

I saw someone post on Twitter how his employer was forcing him to test every day to go to work and he didn't know what to do.

He was deluged with replies along the lines of:

"Tell them to f**k off!"

"Just don't comply!"

"Quit your job!"

"Well, that's really helpful," he replied wryly. "Thanks everyone. So, I'll quit my job, lose my house, and not be able to feed my kids. Great solution."

These thoughtless replies he was getting were generated by other people's complete unwillingness to empathise with his position: someone with a family to provide for and hefty mortgage repayments to meet can't just abandon their employment and monthly wage. Whilst he may certainly wish to seek alternative employment, this can take months or years to secure, and so can successfully establishing yourself as self-employed, so this is no kind of feasible solution to the predicament he currently faces.

So, I sent this man a letter template to send to his employer, invoking the law and explaining that forced testing is not lawful under bioethics and human rights' laws, and advised him to check his employment contract, as if testing is not in his contract, it cannot be enforced, and that he should consider consulting an employment lawyer.

That is advice that might actually work (it has done in the past), and if we really care about other people, we have to do what works for them, not make it all about us and use it as an opportunity to show off ("yeah, well, I wouldn't let my employer talk to me like that, I'd just just tell them to f**k off and quit!" - that might be true for you, but it isn't for everyone, so as I say, we must empathise if we really want to help others).

Leading on from this, Informed Consent Matters was contacted recently by someone who was extensively bullied at work for not wearing a mask - and she wanted to use our resources to demonstrate to her colleagues and employers why masks are dangerous and ineffective.

ICM's mask resources are written in such a way that they are impossible for such types to dismiss or ridicule as "outrageous conspiracy theory", which means they stand a chance of being effective and stopping this person being tormented in the workplace.

When it comes to my direct 'activism', e.g., taking action to support people in challenging diktats and changing their circumstances, I am focused on doing what works and adopting the style that will be effective.

Another example: a vulnerable family contacted me a couple of years ago desperate to protect their young son from Covid testing, which the hospital was claiming he must have prior to his urgent cataract surgery, cataracts he had developed from cancer treatment.

After a very tense confrontation where they threatened to involve social services if the family didn't submit to testing, they eventually relented when I spelled out the law to them and informed them that forced testing is both unethical and illegal.

The little boy in question went on to have successful cataract surgery with no Covid testing.

Now, would I have achieved the same results had I said, "there's not even any such thing as viruses you bunch of fascist scum, so f""k off with your testing!".

No. It does matter how you broach things and how you frame them - at least, it does if you actually want to be successful with eliciting change.

I think there is a great deal of conflation in general between "preaching to the choir" and "converting others", and that it's important to clarify the difference...

The term 'preaching to the choir' is often used as a pejorative, but I don't think it is at all - it is simply describing the phenomenon where people seek out resources that resonate with them and largely reflect their own views and perspectives. We all engage in this when we select books we like, or films, or even friends - we look for what we resonate with, not for what we don't.

For example, a football fanzine is directed at people who already really like football. It's not designed to try and persuade outsiders of the merits of the game, and there's nothing wrong with that.

If, however, you did want to persuade some exasperated football widow to give the beautiful game a chance, you would write a pamphlet in a quite different style to the one you would use for the already devoted fanbase.

And so it is with everything. While my resource here is for, shall we say, "conspiracy fans" - the already consummately converted - that doesn't mean it would be optimally effective for reaching out and connecting with people not already largely on this side.

That's why, when you are trying to convert and persuade, you use a different approach to the one you use when talking to those already broadly sympathetic to your perspective.

It's why you talk to your friends in the pub differently than you do to your boss in a work meeting.

This, incidentally, was the point I was trying to make when I enumerated why it was not appropriate for Laurence Fox to tell us who he does and does not wish. to"shag" live on the national news.

Is Laurence Fox permitted to have preferences in this area? Obviously (most people do).

Is he allowed to discuss them with his friends? Ditto.

Does it therefore follow it's a good idea to declare them in his place of employment live on a serious news broadcast?

Well, the answer is obvious, or it should be - but many people defended Fox because "he was just being honest!! He was speaking his truth!! Are you saying he has to want to shag her?!"

(Dear Lord... this what passes for socio-political debate in this country now apparently...)

What I am saying is be cogent of your audience, where you are, and where they are. Laurence Fox could have made the point he was epically clumsily attempting to make in a much more appropriate way, such as "women who appear to be overly hostile to men are not appealing as partners to those men", and he would have got a lot of support.

But because instead he said what he said, he got roundly ridiculed, lambasted, and ultimately lost his job (as anybody who made such uncouth comments in a work meeting would have done).

So, yes, how you say things and how you frame them really does matter.

Empathising with other people, understanding where they are - and that they are not always where you are - matters.

And if you want to convince them of anything - literally anything at all - you must learn to meet them where they are and tactfully guide them forward. Not keep hounding them and aggressively insisting they see things instantly from your perspective or else (or they're a shill, gatekeeper, controlled opposition or "div c***" - all things I have been called simply for telling "no virus" advocates I don't completely agree with them on everything). You have to have empathy.

The one thing our psychopathic masters completely lack in entirety is empathy: it's the definition of psychopathy, and what allows them to wreak so much havoc and destruction without caring. They simply do not care about how their actions affect other people, because they are not capable of empathising with other people.

That this is so gives us a very big clue as to which part of ourselves we need to develop the most in order to move forwards and win. It's not always easy to be empathic, I'm certainly well aware of this (I've been on the internet, so..), and that, like many things, it requires constant vigilance to keep on top of.

That's why I'm going to keep reminding myself as we go forward that it isn't just "informed consent" that matters - but meeting people where they are really does matter too.

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