Who doesn’t like “free?”

“This workshop is free,” I found myself telling our residents, “which is huge – when you consider how much it costs for people to hold themselves back.”

Often my peers in the Family Self-Sufficiency field remark that, with the right attitude on our part and the proper presentation skills, it should be easy to prompt residents to take actions that result in personal change. Take the workshop I am urging everyone to attend, for example: we can all benefit from financial literacy, right? More so if the attendees hope to move from public housing into homeownership.

keymoneyBut even the word FREE does not always inspire people to take action. Dr. Wayne Dryer advises, “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” So, on the theory that I can only change myself and my actions, I decided to try a different approach.

So what really motivates people to take those all-important steps that make big differences in their lives? Perhaps if we want to change behavior, we need to change our message. Which is why I qualified the description of these classes – beyond saying “free-no cost to you.” And that’s where things got interesting.

Our residents amended their response every time I mentioned the costs of inaction. Until that point, many were invested in explaining why the workshop was not personally feasible at the moment. My newer message seems to encourage self reflection, because several people acknowledged aloud that they could benefit from the workshop being offered.

Ah- but will they attend? That remains to be seen, of course. We are on a new learning curve, my FSS Participants and I. I am trying to change both the way I look at things, and my message. Time will tell what the effects will be.

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