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Swaying public opinion as opposed to making a decision

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#1 Zllio


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Posted 02 November 2008 - 11:59 AM

In working with groups for many years, sometimes as a normal member and at other times in some position of responsibility, I've learned that swaying public opinion about a topic may be a better way to achieve some needed change than having a decision come down from the top.

In Congress I believe this path was chosen with regard to smoking in the 1960s. Prohibition in the 1930s didn't lead to anything but crime, so it was decided to go against smoking in a stepwise manner which included educating people and then reducing the amount of advertising about the tobacco products, then restricting smoking in a few places and then in increasingly more places. While this manner of achieving a goal is very slow, it seems to have better results in the end if it can be shown that it leads to an improvement.

As I watched this process, I found it could be applied to small groups, families and other organizations at the same level as at the level of a whole nation, but it takes an inordinate amount of time. Is there any easy way to achieve a solution to a problem without offending people where there's a conflict in a group? While the democratic process is helpful, it doesn't lead to a consensus and so somewhat less than half the people are still unhappy with the decision. If the decision comes down from the top, that doesn't always feel good either.

I suppose there's no easy solution, but I'd love to hear other people's thoughts on this.


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#2 MaraM


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Posted 06 November 2008 - 12:13 AM

For myself, I only see "a problem in a group" when common courtesy isn't observed. Different opinions are great even within families - we can't (nor should) all be the same.

Swaying public opinion ... I'm not sure we should. I say this because so many things must be decided by a person - and only that person involved. For instance, if one swayed public opinion re abortion ... what is right for one is not (and never will be) right for all.

Even with cigarettes - a person has the right to smoke if he or she chooses. Just don't smoke around others and especially children. A person has the right to drink - just don't do harm to others when you do. But along with these freedoms and so many others comes as you said, no "consensus" and people will always be unhappy that others don't see their way as the only way. Gentle smile.
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Posted 06 November 2008 - 02:50 AM

Impossible to get concensus, out of a Group. If there were only two people, left on this Earth,they couldn't agree, and would argue. Put your case forward,and as long as the majority accept it,then that's the best one could hope for.
Same as Voting.The majority wins, and the rest are obliged, to accept the outcome, and be gracious about it. :thumbsup:

#4 rangecoach


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Posted 08 November 2008 - 10:46 PM

Is there any easy way to achieve a solution to a problem without offending people where there's a conflict in a group?


Regardless of what is done, someone will be offended. You could find an affordable, available to everyone, cure to cancer and someone will be offended. The religious zealots, moral right, radical left, homeopathic and/or scientific medicine adverse/favorable, right-to-life, right-to-choose, etc., etc., etc. would find objection in what you have done. In 1944, when the Pfizer group developed and patented the deep-tank fermentation method for producing large quantities of pharmaceutical-grade penicillin, there were several other pharmaceutical companies that cried foul. When ibuprofen was introduced in 1969, as a viable alternative to aspirin (which was/is directly related to the development of gastrointestinal ulcers and linked to Reye's Syndrome in children), the largest, at the time, aspirin manufacturer tried to file an injunction to prevent the distribution of ibuprofen. All three drugs, at one point or another, have been praised as the "miracle drug of the century" and each has saved countless lives. Inevitiably, someone, somewhere, was offended.

Trying to sway public opinion is a time consuming, resource exhausting process. Trying to force things on the public results in disdain and suspicion. It's the proverbial rock and hard spot.
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#5 BlackSpyder


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Posted 09 November 2008 - 12:17 AM

Even with cigarettes - a person has the right to smoke if he or she chooses. Just don't smoke around others and especially children. A person has the right to drink - just don't do harm to others when you do.

Do No Harm the best advice anyone can be given yet so few take heed of it.

All cultural changes for good or bad have to come from the populous. A rule or law will not change culture. Prohibition came from the populous the same way the Anti-smoking movement did we were just "eased" into the latter. So it's not so much swaying public opinion that makes the difference but not forcing others will's on them.

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#6 Guest_fuzzywuzzy6_*


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Posted 08 December 2008 - 12:47 AM

As a 55-year-old who attended various charitable organization meetings in the 70's, '80's and 00's, and has worked in both the public and private sectors, I have a strong opinion on how to create a consensus. I feel that, at my age, I now have a right to be eccentric and cantankerous or cranky when the situation calls for it.

Political correctness: I feel it has gone way too far, crushing open discussions on the university level and on some political sites. I believe in common courtesy, in tolerance, and in seeking to understand the other's point of view. I have even gone so far as to read some material that I found highly distasteful. I didn't always make it all the way through. In fact, I was a compulsive conciliator. Sometimes it worked with individuals. I learned a lot about the conservative movement and the republican party that way.

I had a supervisor at work who said I wasn't being culturally tolerant when I accused one person of being anti-intellectual and lazy (this person was also dishonest and a champion manipulator--I verified this with a former supervisor and this person's former co-workers on several occasions). I had respect for plenty of other people in this government agency who were from the same ethnic group, and socialized with them on the job. If this worker had been from a different ethnic group and the same qualities were applied, it definitely would have been racism. When a job calls for intellectual effort and team work, and a worker won't make the effort, that worker should be transferred to a more congenial department. This was a case of "political correctness" being misused to protect a person who was intentionally underperforming. So "political correctness" isn't always what it appears to be.

I have been members of 2 organizations (and of one religious congregation) where folks were more interested in throwing their weight around than in promoting the interests of the group. It is very difficult to fight back against that kind of thing. One was a social group for Star Trek hobbyists, the other was a feminist group for students that was taken over by a group of non-feminists who had no interest in daycare or women's rights and wanted to add organizational offices to their resumes so they could transfer to a better school. This organization, quite moderate, languished for a few years, where previously it had thrived.

I attended a required "diversity" training for my government employment. A person with no college or mental health or organizational psychology training led the sessions. She couldn't have been 20 years old. some of the workshops were useful and interesting. But one in particular, "how to gain consensus", was a complete waste of time. She would ask how we would achieve certain goals. I suggested that people posit solutions. She stated that this would be forcing opinions onto other people. Another woman, much milder in manner than I, though I had been quite polite, suggested the same thing in other language. The same response. This happened again later in the meeting. The reasonable, rational folks in the meeting all came to the same conclusion, "You cannot solve problems if you cannot suggest solutions." The "process" forcefully put forward by the corporate employee at the meeting can only have one conclusion: stagnation. Utter, total, abysmal stagnation. And at many agencies in that local government, problems are "solved" by having high level supervisors attend meetings, receive information they find highly interesting and pertinent, and then they make absolutely no attempt to use that information. What good is information on ergonomics or worker safety if the rules or changes or never implemented, even when they cost nothing or might save money in the long and short run?

None of the feminist or democratic party meetings I ever attended ever had that sort of "no-solution is the solution" outlook. the whole thing is a scam: get people to vent, and they will think the problem is solved. Then do absolutely nothing constructive. Maintain the status quo at all costs, even if it is highly dysfunctional.

One other problem I have noticed in both social organizations and in employment, and also, unfortunately, in the U.S. political system: a pervasive "us vs. them" mentality. If you won't even recognize the other side as consisting of human beings with rights, dignities, and possibly good ideas worthy of consideration, you can't work out a solution, because if you won't talk to them, you can't negotiate, compromise or horse trade. And that's how things get done. So we either have stagnation, or the good things get thrown out with.the bath water. Democracies and republics and reform thrive on fruitful, respectful controversy and contention.

And that's my two cents' worth. :thumbsup:

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