you can’t write it in a paper and expect people to believe you;
it’s got to be a human, individual, personal trust relationship.
In 1997 there were growing forecasts of a very severe El Nino drought for Pacific nations in the 1998/1999 summer. A number of countries including the Federated State of Micronesia, the Republic of Palau and the Republic of the Marshalls set up El Nino task forces and insisted that their ministries all worked together to prepare for the drought. The resulting drop in rainfall was one of the most significant El Ninos ever experienced in the Pacific yet the impacts were far less than anyone had anticipated.
One of the key things that lessened the impacts was that careful attention was paid to building relationships between the scientists who forecast El Nino and the people who were being asked to trust and rely on the scientific information.
In one instance forecasters were describing the coming drought whilst standing under a tin roof in pouring rain. People responded to the need to plan for drought because they trusted the forecasters and they trusted them because strong relationships had been built up. As one researcher involved put it, “… it’s eyeball to eyeball contact: you can’t write it in a paper and expect people to believe you; it’s got to be a human, individual, personal trust relationship.”
Let’s apply the Satisfaction Triangle to this situation. Trust is an emotional need. We can be asked to trust someone but ultimately we make a decision as to whether we ‘feel’ we can trust someone. What informs how we feel, is how we have been dealt with. How we feel we have been dealt with, will be dependent on the relationship we have with those we are dealing with. These are things that can be clearly understood as emotional needs on the Satisfaction Triangle.
The scientists working with communities to prepare for the coming El Nino were smart enough to realise that providing scientific information about what was coming simply wasn’t enough. They knew that to get people to plan for drought how they engaged with them was critical to building trust and relationship which in turn was critical to them trusting and acting on the scientific information they were given. The scientists knew that getting the how right gave them the best chance of getting their what listened to.
We tend to focus on what we want to do, prioritise the substantive needs and disregard emotional and procedural needs. Had the scientists done this they would have said ‘ …we just give them the information. What they do with it is up to them.’ They didn’t. They recognised that the information was important enough that they wanted to do everything they could to get people to take it seriously and act on. The scientists went travelling with a triangle.
The Satisfaction Triangle holds that if we want our what; how we approach others holds the key. And that how is both about how we approach the what or the processes we use; and how we take account of how people feel and work to engage with those feelings. We need to always remember that two thirds of getting to a what is in the how of how we do business.