In Part I of this series, I explained The Law of Attraction, aka “The Secret”: we attract what we focus on, whether good or bad. I borrowed from The Rev. Fred Small’s experience to support my conviction that, once we’ve educated ourselves about a particular issue, we have nothing to lose, and much to gain, by focusing on what we want and not on what we don’t want.
For example, I learned that the FCC was considering establishing internet fast lanes for those who can pay for them. When I wrote to the chair and other members of the FCC committee, I didn’t ask them to vote against internet fast lanes, I asked them to uphold internet neutrality.
Yet, people compulsively read more and more about the bad situations that upset them, or worse, repetitively talk and write about them—what I call the “ain’t-it-awful” conversations, the “preach to the choir” Facebook posts. I understand that compulsion. I sense it too. Perhaps we feel in our guts that, if we stay angry and churned up, that spurs us to action.
This might be true for temporary crises requiring quick action. Hurricane watch? Yes, gas up the car and check your storm supplies. But as a way of life, or even a two-year strategy, running on fear is counterproductive. After the storm has passed, you gain nothing by watching and re-watching every single one of those scenes of destruction. Far better to find out what the people need and take those diapers and water bottles to the distribution center.
Fear and anger are great ways for an organization to get you to “click here to donate,” but not good ways to sustain and inspire your efforts. Look how much Rev. Small’s social action improved after he tried The Secret.
The Law of Attraction works for me and reinforces what I teach, consult and write about—persuasion and consensus building. As you’ve read before, “making another person wrong,” as by arguing with her or blaming her, is one of the least effective ways to persuade her. Blaming adds gratuitous negativity—negativity that’s unnecessary to make your point.
Yet, I see eloquent statements about some of the real-life effects of policies, such as a proposed new law, ruined when the author adds gratuitous blame, “So if you voted for them…” Adding that gratuitous blaming factor adds nothing to the information or opinion the author expressed. And contrary to the author’s visceral feeling that he’s influencing those who voted for the current “ins,” all he does is increase their resistance to his message. That’s what the science tells us.
So if you want to see some science behind the Law of Attraction, there you have it. Scientifically designed studies at Harvard, plus a wealth of practical experience by people like me, my clients and trainees, show that gratuitous wrong making (negative focus) knocks the legs out from under any efforts to change people’s minds—about politics or anything else.
What does work is adding positive focus. Pointing out those parts of others’ positions that are true, looking for common ground, saying “Yes and…” rather than “No…” or “But…” before you express your opinion or fact.
Try it. You’ve got nothing to lose and much to gain.