Why won’t you join up?

I was coaching a new client last week, who’s leading a new trade-body for specialist retailers. She’s desperate for more organisations and businesses to subscribe and become members. With more members, subscriptions and dues, the body will be better financed and much more effective in providing a voice for this particular niche group – they’re currently battling against proposals from the EU, who want to limit what they can sell.

She told me how unfair she thought it was that the current membership had to bear all the costs of the campaign through their subscription fees, while non-members stood to receive all the benefits of this campaign, if it’s successful, without parting with a penny.

At first glance it would seem these ‘sister’ retailers, the non-members, are a pretty mean bunch; it would be easy to denigrate them as being parasites! This belief is enough to make anyone lament or despair and might very well discourage this trade-body from trying to recruit more members.

But is this really the case?

Would the non-members describe themselves as parasites? I doubt it. Perhaps what’s happening here is a classic case of the ‘fundamental attribution error’ in operation. This is a term used by psychologists to describe the mistake we all make when we try to attribute, or seek the reason, why other people behave the way they do. This misinterpretation makes us judge others on their disposition/personality but permits us to judge ourselves by our circumstances instead.

So perhaps the non-members talked about earlier aren’t trying to evade their responsibilities. I have feeling that since this is a new trade-body they’re holding back to see if it’s got any permanence. Or perhaps these organisations are simply unsure as to how they go about becoming members. Giving very clear directions to others as to what you want them to do, has been shown from studies to be highly motivating.

Being clear about what you want others to do will be the topic of my next blog – so stay tuned!

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