Need change? Add emotion.

My emotion yesterday? Guilt. From a trash can. And it completely altered my course of action.

Throwing anything away is painfully confusing in San Francisco. So much so that many people (tourists especially) will stand paralyzed with their lunch refuse in front of an intimidating wall of bins. The trash, compost, and multiple recycling bins appear so ominous that each will come to life and attack you if you dare put the wrong item into it. The rules, in fact, are so specific, that you have to deconstruct all serving containers to get them into the right spot.

In a hurry, I didn’t see the typical bin lineup as I walked out of the Galleria food court. I did, however, spot a gleaming trash can right on my way out the main doors (yes, I know better and understand that my lack of time management here is not an excuse). I started toward it, ready to sacrilegiously chuck my compostable plate, recyclable soda can, and my legitimate trash straight into it.

Then I saw this…

Ouch. Not just trash, but landfill. Me, contributing to landfill. I saw myself personally delivering my garbage to the horrible, smelly, massive landfill. Overcome with guilt, I promptly turned on my heel and went out of my way to scale two flights of stairs and spend three minutes deconstructing my lunch containers.

How do you get people to change? You get them to care about your message and prioritize it. If you’ve got limited time to speak or limited space to write, focus on the following to drive action:

See. Feel. Change. Make your audience to see something (ex: Landfill Trashcan), feel something (..Guilt), and then they’ll more inclined to change the way they think or act.

Think – Is there any kind of visual you can show your audience to garner a reaction? Maybe it’s a thick stack of papers and you’re trying to streamline a form-filling-out process. Do you have a story that you could pair with a compelling photograph? Start looking because visuals are powerful tools. Please share any experience you’ve had with getting people to change!