I was in a work environment where the people were getting on my nerves. This wasn’t general misanthropy, but my reaction to a specific habit most of the personnel exhibited.
You would be talking about something – literally anything – and as soon as you finished, there would come a retort:
- “Why do you do that, I do it this way.”
- Oh, I used to own that, but then I found this.”
- “That doesn’t work, I thought everyone knew that.”
It was an aggressive, and borderline hostile work environment and this was just one of the cherries on the shit sundae I had to eat daily. But this feature of conversation got me thinking:
- Why did they one-up me, and each other, all the time?
- What was with the crass aggression?
- What were they winning by turning mundane conversations into battles?
What I have come to believe, beside the fact the workforce was mostly uneducated whites from poor backgrounds, is that they were exercising emotional needs.
And the emotional needs of people are also triggers that compel them to buy, so here is the marketing lesson.
People who are powerless in society, including those with jobs where they face dehumanizing treatment, need some way to demonstrate their worth, or more precisely, their value.
They do so by possessing greater knowledge than others – even if that knowledge has no practical or economic value.
People need to feel important. This need will take any outlet that presents itself, including being rude in conversation.
So how do we sell to people who crave a need for importance?
We sell them inside information. We teach them things, such as techniques, that confer an advantage. We show them shortcuts, we tell them very few know these insider tricks, we point out that their friends, family, neighbors and co-workers either don’t have access to this information, are too stupid to understand it or can’t afford to buy it.
We tell them that having this information, or following this method, demonstrates that they are smarter than their peers.
We aggravate their insecurity by stroking their ego.
We remind them that other people may be getting ahead without them knowing what they are doing.
We contribute to the generalized anxiety they feel that if they aren’t growing they are most likely dying – or worse, that someone is going to point out that they are not keeping up.
We show how someone else used the information, the tool or the technique, to improve their life – and that person can see them from their lofty perch.
We give them something, even a tiny morsel, of superior information, that they can use as a conversational bludgeon the next time someone else is simply trying to shoot the breeze.
We feed their gnawing hunger to hide their insecurity with whatever we know that they don’t – so they can then go back to their lives feeling just a little bit better they are still in the fight. Because to them, it is a fight. Even when it’s just a simple watercooler chat. Now before you think ill of me for that rant, let’s take the time to remind ourselves of a principle: (see tomorrow’s message)