In principle, there are basically three ways to influence the choices people make:
1. Regulate what people cannot do and punish violations.
2. Offer incentives to encourage certain choices.
3. Provide information that rings so true it compels good choices.
If you believe that, for the most part, people want to do the right thing, the most effective and peaceful method of influencing good decisions is to provide good information so the right thing becomes self-evident.
For example, Maine has historically had one of the highest teen smoking rates in the nation. We have made laws against teen smoking and punished violators. We have created incentives against smoking such as high taxes on cigarettes. These have not had satisfactory results. Only recently has the rate dramatically declined and it is because we launched an information campaign that made the detrimental health effects of cigarette smoking clear. We provided truthful information on television and radio. For all those teens who want to do the right thing, it’s now clear what that is.
Practical Tip: Provide all decision makers with the best possible information about the issue being considered. Good, truthful information is extremely compelling.
Actually, good information is the only thing that is truly compelling and results in sustainable decisions.