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Thread: Scared of change!

  1. #1
    Cyburbian prana's avatar
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    Scared of change!

    Alright, I'm looking for some new tactics to deal with those members of the public that are simply just scared of change and assume that if nothing is done...everything is good.

    I like the motto that: Everything is in constant change, so if you're not improving your [insert building, town, streetscape, neighborhood, whatever], it is deteriorating. But this doesn't always go over well because the first argument is usually that we have always done it this way. And now we are in an argument with nebulous, non-definable terms that doesn't lead anywhere in particular.

    So, I am looking for successful tactics to make people open their minds and consider other possibilities.

    Specifically, I am presenting on Main Street, road diets, and adding streetscape elements, all of which seem to be such common sense, but not if you have lived here for 35 years apparently.
    "You can measure the health of a city by the vitality and energy of its streets and public open spaces.-- William H. Whyte..

  2. #2
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Sure.....

    Start with this:

    1. Get People with the intestinal fortitude to do what YOU/Elected Officials KNOW is the right thing to do.
    2. Economic Development, Economic Development, Economic Development....repeat until no longer asked.
    3. Infrastructure improvements are needed.....repeat until no longer asked.
    Skilled Adoxographer

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    As you said it, they are scared of change. What can you do about someone who is scared? Send the whole group to a therapist.

    When someone refuses to agree because of an irrational belief, no amount of rational thought is going to change their mind.

    Sorry for no better solution. You have a real problem on your hands. You may need to just accept the fact that they aren't buying what you are selling.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    It's a democratic system. Someone is always going to be screwed over whenever something is done. The ones with the most irrational beliefs are going to hold out the longest when presented with reasons to change, and some percentage of the public will realize that these people are irrational.

    I would start out by giving examples of what you are promoting and show how they benefit the community (with liberal use of the phrases "economic development" and "infrastructure investment", probably best to tie the two together). Talk about how economic development will be hampered by not doing what you propose, and depending on how tough you want to be, you could imply that those who oppose this do not want the area to experience significant economic growth.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by prana View post
    Alright, I'm looking for some new tactics to deal with those members of the public that are simply just scared of change and assume that if nothing is done...everything is good.


    So, I am looking for successful tactics to make people open their minds and consider other possibilities.

    Specifically, I am presenting on Main Street, road diets, and adding streetscape elements, all of which seem to be such common sense, but not if you have lived here for 35 years apparently.
    You can't tell anybody anything, especially some formula you got on a chat board. You have to listen and address their concerns the best way you can. I can't tell you how to do that other than listen and don't cram your high-falutin idears down their throat. If they don't want to calculate the benefits, then you'll have to content yourself with a majority and not every single person.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    You can't tell anybody anything, especially some formula you got on a chat board. You have to listen and address their concerns the best way you can. I can't tell you how to do that other than listen and don't cram your high-falutin idears down their throat. If they don't want to calculate the benefits, then you'll have to content yourself with a majority and not every single person.
    What he said.

    You should take a good hard look at your proposals and come up with sound, real-world reasons for how/why they would benefit the community. If you can't do that, then maybe your proposals aren't really "common sense" at all.

    Changing something just to change it is no better than refusing to change because of fear. If traditional ways of doing things work, then what's the purpose of changing them?

  7. #7
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    What he said.

    You should take a good hard look at your proposals and come up with sound, real-world reasons for how/why they would benefit the community. If you can't do that, then maybe your proposals aren't really "common sense" at all.

    Changing something just to change it is no better than refusing to change because of fear. If traditional ways of doing things work, then what's the purpose of changing them?
    LOL - spoken by someone who has never been in the hot seat at a public hearing. All the logic and reason in the world will do nothing when the reptile brain kicks in. One's perception as part of a wider 'community' goes out the window when the fear hormones kick in.

    I've been there. You can't always bring every last person around. The key is to have an administration that has your back and won't toss you to the dogs at the first negative comment submitted on your proposal.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Going back to your original statement about change being inevitable, have you shown them what that change has been, and where it is headed? Taking the case of the downtown, document what has happened in the last ten years in terms of things like business mix, lease rates, average vacancy, etc. This can be shown contrasted to a highway commercial area if it helps to show that downtown is in need of additional investment. Show where the trend is headed. Ask if they would prefer to allow the trend to continue as it is or if they would like to attempt to influence it in a way to get another result. Don't be surprised, though, if they come up with a different objective than the one you may have in mind.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    The observation I’ve made is that people in smaller communities tend to be more adverse to change while people in bigger communities tend to deal with change better, and I think the reason for this is simple. Say there were two siblings growing up in a small town. One likes adventure and exploring new things while the other likes stability and consistency. When these two siblings are grown up and are moving out on their own the adventurous sibling is more likely to move to the big city while the less adventurous sibling is more likely to settle down very close to home. Therefore smaller towns tend to be populated by a higher percentage of people who don’t like change.

    The solutions I’ve found to be effective is to make a good first impression. Have a public meeting very early in the process and don’t present anything that looks like you’ve made any sort of decision. Simply outline the problem you are trying to solve and ask them for ideas. Make sure you engage a fair cross-section of the community and not just the vocal few. You might go so far as presenting options – particularly examples of what other communities have done – but always let the people tell you what they want. You can then engage in a discussion with them about the pros and cons of each option. More often than not someone will come up with some crazy, elaborate, expensive scheme that will make your simple, effective and budget-conscience option look quite mundane.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    Here are the three things I would do:
    Find champions of the change you are advocating that are not government employees. Business owners, influential citizens etc will hold much more sway

    Progress is incremental, especially in downtown development, so start with a small, not too scary, project. For example a, wayfinding, new streetsigns, or landscaping project. Once people see its not change but progress they are more likely to accept

    What Cardinal said. I would not go so data driven...I would go more emotional but the point that businesses have and will continue to shift to other areas and if we wait to act it might be too late.
    "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less" General Eric Shinseki

  11. #11
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Personally, I think your best bet is to present the info you are proposing in a clear, logical, well thought out manner and let the chips fall where they may. Sometimes you have to have trust that those making decisions will see the holdouts or resisters for what they are. Let them speak, stumble on their words, have a hard time explaining why they feel the way they do (because, it sounds like it isn't really that rational) and trust that others will seek the most responsible way forward.

    What people say is true - you really can't please everyone. That is a hard part of this work - accepting that some people will be pissed off. And I also find that while people resist change as if their life depends on it, in 3-5 years, they will wonder why things were ever different from the "new way." Try to change it again and they will complain that the way it is (meaning the improvements you are proposing) should stay the same because its what they are used to.

    We also face the challenge from members of the public that seem to susect that every development, modification in zoning or infrastrutuyre improvement is part of some larger conspiracy to screw some constituent. And sometimes that is the case (and was so especially in times like Urban Renewal in the 70s). But again, let people talk and get their feelings out and see where the general public falls. Generally speaking, people are pretty astute. Its just that public meetings often only attract people who feel strongly about something (and usually strongly AGAINST something).

    Its also probably not a bad idea to encourage a constituency that supports the ideas to be present at meetings so the public comments are not just coming from those that oppose. Not to stack the deck, but to make sure that its not just the City against a select group of angry residents and that people other than the City can articulate why these are good ideas for the public.

    Lastly, I find that one of the real challenges with public resitance to some ideas is getting to what is actually bothering them. It may not be what it seems (that they are opposed to your idea, say). Sometimes its that they didn't feel inclluded at an early enough stage. Sometimes its that the idea seemed to be sprung on them or that the ideas were presented to the public in a way that implied its already happening and that their input is not really going to amount to much. Sometimes its because it seems to undermine some work they have invested heavily in.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    May check out the Institute for Participatory Management and Planning, they have some great techniques and trainings on design of public process ...

    A couple things:
    - convince the community that either a) the proposed action allows them to take advantage of an opportunity they don't want to miss; or b) it addresses a problem that won't be solved otherwise.
    - make sure those who are willing to lead effective opposition feel listened to, feel their concerns have been taken into account, and that while they may disagree with the ultimate decision, its a decision that's in the best interests of the community.
    - controversial project requires a well-planned outreach effort with pre-meetings and cultivating stakeholders - walking into a "public meeting" with the draft plan can be dangerous!

    Probably part of the challenge is assuming that the ideas we present are "common sense" when our public may have totally different concerns, such as "where will I park my truck?" or "we've gotta keep people from moving to our city!" and perhaps have never really experienced the type of places you're trying to transform the downtown into.

  13. #13
    BANNED
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    People fear change because of various reasons such as habit, working style, fear of loss, fear of uncertainty, fear of rumors about change, self doubt and anxiety. Try convincing them and become their change counselor.

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