I was mindlessly perusing Facebook this morning and I came across Christian’s post about Ohio’s law banning barefootedness in Federal buildings. I’m not going to go into the back story, so read his post to learn more. Since he’s a prosecutor, I was curious about his legal interpretation of the decision. I’m vaguely familiar with the Constitutionality of the decision based on my experiences as a government teacher, so his analysis wasn’t a surprise.
So our government can create dumb laws. That shouldn’t be a surprise. How should we deal with this?
Christian recommends some good stuff at the end of his post, including a link to Dr. Daniel Howell’s site and the Primalfoot Alliance. The Society for Barefoot Living is a great resource, too. Generally speaking, the goal is to change laws and educate the public about the benefits of barefootedness.
Changing minds so our society accepts barefootedness is an important goal. Personally, I’m not a fan of forcing people to accept barefootedness. As much as I like to be antagonistic, it’s not an effective means of winning the hearts and minds of those that object.
Education isn’t always effective, either. The problem is simple- you can’t forcefully educate people. After working for more than a decade as a public high school teacher, trust me on this one.
The trick is to personally persuade people. Key people. Decision-makers. Focus on what will be effective.
Here’s a common scenario:
You’re barefoot in a store. A store employee confronts you about being barefoot. Some may resort to arguing with the employee about their rights. Others may willingly disregard the employee. Some may try to educate the employee by explaining the benefits and/or lack of local health code regulations on barefootedness. Others may demand to talk to a manager, then take one of these approaches with the boss.
None are effective.
From the perspective of the employee, all of these options escalate the situation. They force the employee to dig in their heels (you know… because they’re wearing shoes and all…) which dose nothing to actually change the minds of the people that matter.
Here’s what I do:
Goal One: Create an ally. First, I apologize for putting them in an uncomfortable situation where they had to confront a customer. This acknowledges their feelings and lets them know you’re actually listening to their concerns. This is important as we rarely feel as though other people are really listening to us. This idea itself is powerful and immediately converts us from an opponent to a friend.
Goal Two: Give a dumb excuse why you’re barefoot. I always say I broke a strap on my sandal, even in the winter. If I don’t have sandals with me, I tell them I threw them away so my kids wouldn’t hit each other with them (even if I don’t have my children with me). If I do have my sandals, I quickly flash them to the employee. The strap isn’t really broken, but people will take our word on this based on goal one. My little inside joke- I wear Chacos sandals, which are essentially bulletproof. There’s no way a strap will break on these. Yes, I’m easily amused.
Goal Three: Give a compliment while at the same time subtly drop slip in some education. You’ve gotten the employee on your side with goal one, then played up their sympathies with goal two. Now we’re going to plant a seed for future encounters. Give them two compliments- one pertaining to the store, the other pertaining to them. For the store compliment, I always go with the cleanliness of the store compared to a direct competitor in the area. If I don’t know stores in the area, I use Walmart. If I’m in a Walmart, I use K-Mart. This subtle play suggests you prefer to shop here instead of their competitor. Most employees could care less, but it works regardless.
As far as the personal compliment, this has to be very subtle. Instead of saying “I like [insert thing you like here].”, I ask where they acquired something. If they have an interesting article of clothing or jewelry, I ask about that. If they have a tattoo or piercing, I ask where they got it done. Do something to make it personal. It reinforces goal one.
When giving these compliments, I also weave in some education. I may tell them I recently read an article about being barefoot or why wearing shoes can be harmful. If you’re even remotely familiar with barefootedness, you should have plenty of ammunition here. The trick- don’t appear to be too much of an expert. You’re just making conversation about a curious activity. By now, you’ll have won them over and planted a seed for the future.
Goal Four: Seal the deal. The goal here is to continue shopping barefoot. Apologize again for putting them in an uncomfortable situation and tell them why you came in the store in the first place. Ask them if they can do you a favor and get whatever you needed because you don’t want them to get in trouble for you being barefoot. This wording forces one of three scenarios.
1. They don’t want to waste the time doing your shopping and allow you to pass to finish your shopping. If you’re stopped again, you can simply pawn it off on the first employee.
2. They actually get the product. If they go along with it and get the product, always tell them it’s the wrong one. The goal is to get them to let you wander through the store barefoot, which they will do if you waste too much of their time.
3. The offer to escort you to the product. This is unlikely, but still effective. If they offer, get the product(s) with them in tow.
All three scenarios serves a singular purpose- it sets a precedent. First, you can bring up this precedent any time you return to the store. If it’s the same employee, you’ll have an ally. You may have to create a new excuse, but they’ll readily go along with it. Second, that employee will talk about the experience with their coworkers. If you were friendly and smile a lot throughout the interaction, they’ll cast you in a positive light. That will make all future interactions FAR easier. Third, if the person was a manager and you’re stopped by a subordinate in the future, you can always play the “[Insert manager's name] said it was okay.” Odds are the manager will back you up since you would have developed a positive rapport in the initial interaction.
My method may be unorthodox, but it’s effective. It plays on the psychology of the store employee and reframes a confrontational situation to a friendly interaction. On a personal level, it will win over the businesses and other establishments you frequent. On a collective level, enough people employing this method will create a much more barefoot-friendly world. The precedent you set will allow others to follow in your footsteps.
What do you think? How would you fight the powers that be to increase the acceptance of barefootedness?