Consumerism. I’m not a fan of the word. I’m also not a fan of being deemed a “good consumer.” It’s odd praise to me. However, I am a fan of making good decisions—which to me means those that affect me or those I love in a positive way. So when I think about this buzzword “consumerism,” I really just think about it as the power given when presented with a choice.
As a mother of two small children, it’s a careful balancing act for me to help my kids be independent while guiding them toward good decisions, and telling them what to do while creating opportunities for them to decide for themselves. Honestly, it can be exhausting – after all, choices are all around us, every day. Do you want milk or water? Are you going to wear your jacket or not? Do you want the applesauce or slices of apple today?
Yet guiding my children to make their own choices is important, so I do everything I can to set them up to be successful. I think about the information I need to share and, most importantly, how I need to share it so that they receive it in a way that will enable them to make good decisions.
If, for example, I give the choice of wearing a jacket, I need to present the right information – what the weather is like, whether they will play outside in the afternoon, whether I think will they be too cold without one if they decide to leave it home (or should they play it safe and put it in their school bags).
I also think about how to share the information they need. If, for example, I tell them about the weather when they’re just waking up, or as I’m helping them get dressed, it’s too hard for them to process.
The same is true for our clients and their employees. Most people need time to consider what information has been shared, and then think about their options so they can make their choice and accept the outcome. It’s not enough to just toss benefits information at employees. Rather, employers need to paint the picture with the right context.
This morning, it was cool – not cold, but cool. So I told my son, “It’s a little cool and it’s raining, so you’ll need your umbrella, but you won’t have recess outside. It’s up to you if you want your jacket.” He emerged from his room wearing a long-sleeved shirt, fleece pants, socks and shoes, and got his umbrella from the spot where we keep them beside the door. I gave him the “are we all set?” look and he smiled and said, “No jacket, I’m not cold.”
Just to be certain, I opened the front door and said, “Want to double check?” He peeked his head out, decided he was all set, and off we went to school.
Whenever we present someone with a choice, context is critical. With enough information, making a good choice (remember my definition of “good” being relative to affecting the person in a positive way) becomes easier, and we’re more likely to accept the outcome of our decision.
Without enough information or the right context, well, let’s imagine what would happen if I hadn’t told my son it was cool and raining, and he just assumed that since it was light out, it was warm: a sad, wet, 5-year-old who blames his mommy for sending him out unprotected.
Instead, I gave him the pertinent details, in a way he could absorb the information. I let him choose, and then gave him a chance to confirm his decision. He got the power to choose, and made a choice that felt positive to him: he didn’t have to carry his jacket, he stayed dry, and got to show off his cartoon character-branded umbrella. A true kindergarten win!
So, the next time you have the ability to create choice for someone, ask yourself: Did you share enough information, in the right context? Or will someone blame you for sending them out uninformed?