Thursday, 15 July 2010

The blindness of enthusiasm

Many moons ago when the volcanic ash was disrupting air flights (how soon we forget - just wait for big brother to blow), I heard an interesting discussion on the radio. A slow travel enthusiast was, in a rather trainspotterly way, noting how people were having to travel home by bus or train, and how the experience would no doubt win over many converts to slow travel.

It's hard to imagine anyone getting things more wrong than this. You have been waiting days in an airport with the heaving masses. Now you are stuck on a sweaty bus for hour after hour. All you want to do is be home, NOW. But still the bus journey drags on. And on. And let's not talk about toilets. Yet our slow travel guru reckoned this would be winning over converts.

Now, don't get me wrong. I rather like rail-based slow travel. A few years ago we went to Switzerland by train, and it was a great holiday. But that was with the expectation that we would be travelling (relatively) slowly, stopping off in Paris and generally enjoying the journey in its own right. If it's forced on you as a last resort, you are not going to be won over.

I think what happened here is a much wider phenomenon. One where someone gets really enthusiastic about a subject and assumes everyone else will fall in love with it too. And they are so wrong. We see it in Bill Oddie when he goes on about birds. We see it in anyone who does morris dancing (and particularly those who suggest we should have morris dancing at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics). We see it in barbershop singers. We see it in those who believe we should all go and live in a self-constructed wooden hut in the wilds to be ecofriendly.

Number one lesson for anyone trying to persuade others to latch on to their enthusiasm: You have to see the subject through the other person's eyes, not through your own joy goggles. Otherwise you have lost the argument before you begin.

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