I was having a chat with my pal Becky about the sorts of people encountered seemingly everywhere, regardless of what country, state/province, county or city. These are the people that emerge when giving a seminar, presentation, workshop or keynote on ending homelessness or affordable housing. I have narrowed it down to 25 different types of people often encountered.
1. The “We’re Unique” Person
Loves the idea. But won’t move forward with activating the idea because they are convinced that their organization or community is so different that practices based upon evidence and replicated numerous times elsewhere, will not work in their place. More often than not, this person has not visited a number of other places to see programs in operation. Said person may not ever been out of state or own a passport.
2. The “We Should be Exempt” Person
Loves the idea. Wants to see it implemented. Just not within their own organization. Because that, you see, would disrupt what they are doing which, if you don’t know, is more awesome (but has no data to prove it).
3. The “Intimidates Everyone So No One Ever Speaks Up In Front of Them But Others Have Special Meetings to Strategize About Them” Person
People walk on eggshells around them. They inflict so much fear in others that in order to get things done in the community, others have to arrange special meetings behind the scenes to either neutralize them or make decisions outside of their influence. In other circles this person may be referred to as a bully. Said person sees themselves as a consensus builder and partnership person in a lot of instances.
4. The “Yes, But…” Person
Agrees with everything said and agreed upon. Then provides a reason that contradicts agreement or minimizes agreement or shows that they never even came close to agreeing in the first place. They want to be seen as a team player, without playing on the team.
5. The “In All My Years Experience” Person
Plays the “I’ve been at this longer than you so I know better” card either by mentioning years, who was in elected office, names of initiatives or actual career years so as to outline that they have either seen it all before and what you are presenting/discussing is not new, or that they have wisdom that exceeds what is being suggested.
6. The “I Have Read Something You Have Not” Person
Most often they bring out a really obscure article to try and demonstrate intellect, rather than a more seminal piece on the subject. “Have you read Jennifer Pyke’s ‘Suicide in community based case management service’ from 1992?” If you haven’t read the article, they will try to explain that their position is supported from that one piece (well, not Pyke’s piece) – and therefore, anything suggested contrary to that position is not guided in evidence. (Note: they may have read said piece in their undergrad and/or may name the author or name of the article incorrectly. Further note that in place of “I have read something” they may play the “I had a professor once that said” card.)
7. The “You Don’t Understand How Hard This Is” Person
Assumes that any person that suggests a new approach for doing things must have no frontline experience and/or not appreciate that working with people with complex issues can be difficult.
8. The “We Tried Almost the Identical Thing” Person
Dismisses new ways of doing things by suggesting that the almost identical thing has been tried and it did not work or that they could not get it funded long-term. This is a warning shot across the bow for anyone considering buying in that they just need to look at them and know this is a bad idea.
9. The “We Would Need Our Own Study First” Person
Wants just one more local study. They refuse to believe that evidence from other places is transferable. Some of these people have friends that work at the local university. A grant will be necessary. That will take time.
10. The “We Invented This…Thanks For Validating Us” Person
Though rarely coming close to even slightly resembling what is being presented, they try to increase their cache or raise their profile with their peers by suggesting that they have been doing what you describe long before the idea was suggested.
11. The “You’re Not From Here, Are You?” Person
If only you (presenter) were from this place, you would understand things that cannot be explained in words. Because you are NOT from here, you cannot possibly understand. Therefore, we cannot do what you suggest because you are not from here. (And what are you anyway? Canadian?)
12. The “You Are Younger Than I Am, Let Me School You How the World Really Works” Person
This is the age card where living longer must mean smarter, better and more informed. This one is more often played by someone towards the end of her/his career. They may be seeking artificial respect that is not deserved.
13. The “No Matter How Much Data and Information You Give Me” Person
Numbers do not influence this person at all. Doesn’t matter where the numbers come from. Doesn’t matter what the numbers show. Doesn’t matter how many documents, journal articles, datasets, etc. are presented – there is no persuading this person that there is evidence. They may also say head-scratching things like, “Data isn’t always right, you know.”
14. The “That Sounds Expensive” Person
Loves the idea. Because it is a new idea, it comes across as expensive. This person always thinks this means new money rather than re-investing existing money. They also blow the actual costs way out of proportion because of some unknown and inexplicable local inflation factor.
15. The “Wait… Are You Suggesting We House People Rather than Rehabilitate Them?” Person
This person loses their friggin’ mind at the possibility of a paradigm shift in how they have delivered their services. They are aghast. Sometimes incredulous. Many time angry. Almost always completely freaked out to the point of paralysis.
16. The “God Spoke To Me and it is Different Than What you Suggest” Person
This is the “higher power” card. Sometimes when spoken it implies that the presenter does not know God – or does not know God as well, or does not their God. Sometimes this person will ask if you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior. (Tip: do not ask this person what God’s voice sounds like. They get angry. Second tip: do not suggest that Jesus was not a white American.)
17. The “We Only Serve the ‘Hardest of the Hardest to Serve’ And This Won’t Work for Them” Person
In this instance, the person is making a claim that their population with complex needs is more complex than any other complex population. As such, they are disinterested in making changes in what they do because they assume that it will not be effective. If you ask this person to outline by which evidence they know they serve the hardest of hardest to serve they “just know” or will claim “everyone knows that” but do not provide evidence.
18. The “My Boss Should Have Been Here” Person
This person would love to make change. And that may actually be true. Except they cannot seem to take the information back or impact change because their boss did not come and their boss is too busy with other things to actually ever come and learn about the changes necessary to be more effective.
19. The “I Agree with You 100% But Won’t Do Anything” Person
This is the “yes man” on an extreme level. At every step along the way they want you to know they are 100% in agreement. They often shake your hand. They often tell you that you are amazing as a presenter. Then they do nothing. Ever.
20. The “But We Serve Families” Person
If you speak to a mixed audience of single and family service providers, this is the person that will suggest that anything that has been said (even if you said and outlined individuals and families) will not work for families. If you ask them why, they will say it is because they are families. You may ask them what they mean by this, and they will tell you that families are different than singles. You may agree with this and they will nod and say “so you know what I mean”. You will claim that you don’t. They will ask if you are currently a family service provider. You will say no. They will say, “I don’t know how to explain it to you.” You will assert that you spoke about families as well as individuals. They will deny you said that or will say something like “but I know what works for families”.
21. The “We Don’t Have the Training to Do That” Person
Love the idea. Would love to implement the idea. Thinks their own staff or organizations are morons. Would love to say yes to moving forward. Refuse to do so because of training inadequacies. If you offer training, they will claim people are too busy or resistant to training. Even when it is free.
22. The “But What Do We Do in the Meantime” Person
Love the idea. Want to make change. Just cannot make change. Why? Because they are currently doing something else. If you suggest they can have a plan to switch from one approach to another, they get stuck on the fact they are doing something different now.
23. The “We Have Data That Shows Better Results” Person
This is a tricky person. They know that data is important. However, they never knew that having a control group was important or that showing their population in the context of an entire population was important. You suggest that they can get even better results doing something different, and they cannot see how this is possible. (Note: this person may name university professors or grad students that have helped them create the data they have as legitimacy for not considering new information. Most often they will ask you if they know Doctor So and So.)
24. The “We Just Spent A Lot of Money Doing…” Person
This person is usually flummoxed by the fact that they did not hear you speak earlier. They are at a loss to explain why they created a campus or built transitional housing. As such, they insist they have to keep going with what will NOT work because they spent money on it.
25. The “We Need a Pilot” Person
Likes the idea. Wants to buy in. Scared. Doesn’t matter how much data or evidence there is, they insist that they need a smaller-scale version to try first before they are committed so that they can have “local proof of concept” and/or “convince people locally it works”. Regardless of how amazing the pilot results may be, this person feels they need another pilot to confirm the first pilot was not a fluke. You explain that pilot projects existed once upon a time to be innovative and have become an excuse nowadays to not implement what actually works across the board out of fear of resistance. They look at you dumb-founded.