I received an email the other day asking for advice on how to get a loved one on board with prepping. This is a subject I have wanted to write about for a while because I have had these same thoughts and struggles with various loved ones in my own life as each of you. I won’t try to convince you that I am an expert and there is no book forthcoming, but I do have personal experience of my own challenges of trying to convince someone about prepping and wanted to share this and my perspectives with you. I share these like most of my articles in the hopes that someone reading can gain some small bit of knowledge or a suggestion that may help you in your own personal prepping journey and that this information can equip you to be prepared or make your life easier.
Why do we care about this in the first place? It should be perfectly obvious to everyone the reasons for prepping, shouldn’t it? They make perfect sense to me and it is just logical. I mean how can you not see what I am worried about? If you haven’t caught on by now, everyone isn’t like you. No matter how close someone is to you they have their own opinions, their own experiences, fears, doubts, stresses and priorities. Even two people who live under the same roof and who have been married for years can see things completely differently. A lot of things…
When I started to “wake up” to the realization that our society is pretty fragile and notice the everyday threats that I was ignoring, the first person I wanted to tell was my wife. I didn’t break it to her slowly either. I think I read a few books and did a ton of research on the internet and then one night as we were getting ready for bed I hit her with my whole list of concerns and everything I needed to purchase before the grid went down. This did not go over well. As you might expect, or have possibly even witnessed yourself, my wife pretty much looked at me and said “That’s crazy”. It was my first attempt at convincing someone else (who I cared for) of something I was so sure about and I failed miserably. The sting was worse because if anyone would understand and support me it would be my spouse, right? Wrong.
When I started prepping in earnest it drove my every thought and it still occupies a good part of my daily plans. To me, this new perspective helped my family to become more prepared, but I didn’t have a lot of support or understanding at first. Convincing someone of a new or completely foreign concept is not an easy task. Especially when that concept takes them well outside of their comfort zone, costs a lot of money or could cause them embarrassment.
Understand your audience
I have a lot of people I care for in my life or I should say a lot of different types of people I care for. There is my immediate family which I consider as my wife and kids. Our parents and siblings are the second tier, and then close friends, casual friends or co-workers and everyone else. I want each one of these people to be aware of the threats that could disrupt our lives and to prepare accordingly. However, I can’t talk to a casual friend with the same openness as my spouse obviously. I wouldn’t tell a co-worker all of my plans hopes and fears with the same comfort as my siblings or parents.
Understanding your audience is a key factor to consider anytime you are having a conversation in which you are trying to persuade them to your point of view. The more you know about a person the better you will be prepared to discuss prepping with them in a way that is going to keep them comfortable and open to conversation. Some of this plays out for me in subtle ways like asking leading questions or using current events to sell a point. If I had a co-worker that I wanted to talk to about prepping I would first wait for the right opportunity. If a situation presented itself, like the recent bombings in Boston, and the subject came up you could broach being prepared with them. How you do that though is going to be different than how you would be with your brother or sister. Try to match your fervor and energy level to the level of interest you perceive in the person you are talking to. Actually, I try to keep my tone one step below where they are at. Here is an example.
Your co-worker comes up to you and brings up hurricane Sandy and how tragic it is that people were without power for weeks and had to wait in gas lines. You could offer words like “I feel sorry for them. That’s why I have some extra gas stored for emergencies” because “you never know what could happen”. I think it’s important to say this with a humble attitude and not a “those people are idiots” tone. This may lead to other questions or it may die right there, but you left the impression on your co-worker that someone has thought about things like this and won’t be as out of luck if the same scenario were to happen to you. They may come back to you later with other questions or this could just be a spark that gets them thinking. Sometimes I think that the first step to thinking about prepping is hearing that someone you know and respect is thinking about the same thing already.
Focus on the need, not the reason
Many times I have tried to convince my spouse of the impending doom or disasters lurking around the corner and I believe that in some cases this isn’t the best approach. My wife would have two initial reactions to my conspiracy theories or inflated statements about the quickly approaching end of the world. First, she would want to convince me that I am wrong about whatever my subject was. My wife is very smart and knows a fair amount of history so she has a wealth of knowledge to draw upon which takes us further away from where I am trying to go. In my mind I am only trying to get her on board with my prepping. But by telling her some of the reasons (the more alternative reasons) for prepping, she forgets about the need and focuses on debunking my theories. Secondly, she did not want to believe that anything is hopeless. For her, if we truly were headed for a disaster or economic collapse, what was the point in trying? In this situation, rather than convince her what we need to do to live, I was making her feel more helpless. My job was to reverse that thinking quickly.
I have learned through many of these discussions that my wife simply doesn’t have the same view on a lot of things that I do but that is perfectly fine. She can easily see the benefit in having food after watching the shelves empty after the threat of a snow storm. She can appreciate having a few dozen gallons of gas when the gas station pumps are no longer working. She can imagine going without toilet paper because we don’t have any and the stores are closed or having to have an alternate plan for cooking if the power is off. It is sometimes easier to let the person you are trying to convince think about the end situation you are describing (hunger, gas rationing, cities on lock-down) than the potential reasons for these scenarios.
After several arguments about the various forces I believe that are conspiring to create our very own SHTF future, I switched tactics. I didn’t try to convince my wife about zombies coming to eat everyone’s brains out, but I used real people reacting to real natural disasters to highlight what I wanted her to understand. When you can see on TV people who aren’t prepared and imagine how they must be suffering it is easier to picture yourself in that same situation. What I had been struggling with was not as big of an issue anymore. My wife started to imagine her family being without food because the power was out or the roads were closed and then me stocking up a month worth of food wasn’t such a big deal anymore.
Be happy with small victories
When I first told my wife all of my grand plans and concerns about the world, I had a fantasy in my mind that she would jump up immediately and say “OK, let’s get going. What do we need to do?”. I thought surely she would see the urgency of what I saw and would instantly be 100% behind me. That didn’t happen at all and I have had to content myself with a lot of smaller victories.
If you have someone in your life that you really love and are concerned with, you have to look at everything as a work in progress. Your marriage is not something you put a days worth of work into and then spend the rest of your life coasting. It is similar sometimes with prepping. You may be able to agree on storing up a month of food or making sure you have plenty of stored water, but firearms for security takes a lot longer. They may be perfectly fine with you building your own Get Home Bag, but balk at you wanting to get a concealed carry license.
Expect that you may not win this person or any person over immediately, but your actions and the way you live your life will be viewed over a period of months or possibly years. If you can get your parents to purchase a firearm for their security, but they think you would be insane to store any food, be happy they have a gun. Don’t discount everything because they aren’t riding next to you in your bug out vehicle with full-on camo ready for the end of the world. Like I said everyone has different views and priorities. You should be steady in your convictions, loving in your concern and let them see that you take this seriously. Over time, the people you are trying to convince will see how you act. It will ultimately be up to them to choose how they want to live.
Maintain respect and dignity
No matter how hard you try there will be some people who you may love very much who simply don’t see things the way you do. They may disagree with everything you say and as much as it hurts to do it, you might just have to let it go. Don’t try to convince them anymore, but you don’t have to shut yourself off from them. I have had disagreements with my father for instance. I think I always treated him with respect even though I think he is wrong on some things. I am sure he feels the same, but it doesn’t matter what he believes because I still love him and hope that I never have to say “I told you so”. Now, I don’t think I would ever say that regardless of the situation but people will disagree with you and what will you do then?
At some point, hopefully before you have escalated things into a full-blown argument, you can simply agree to disagree. This is only going to reflect better on you and may make you more approachable later. Treat people with respect even though you think they are wrong or naïve and they will think better of you for it. And, it will make you a better person too. Humility and knowing when to drop something are excellent traits.
At the end of the day, your job should be to prepare yourself and your family. Part of that responsibility as a leader is to get people on board with you. It may not happen overnight, but you have already decided to do everything you can to survive, right? You have to have the same conviction with the people you love. Never give up on them and always be there if they need you.