The other day, I observed a friend doing the dishes with water left running on. A voice in my head screamed in disapproval as I felt a lot of water was being wasted unnecessarily.
Rather than say anything however, I just proceeded to wash my own dishes and regulated the water usage as I normally do. (I did feel self-righteous doing that.)
I thought about that moment a few minutes later and asked myself why I didn’t say anything. And, the answer that came immediately was in the form of a question – “Are you sure you aren’t just being hypocritical?”
A combination of being a student of human irrationality and growing self-awareness over the years had made me fairly conscious about my/our tendency to be hypocritical.
I then reflected on my own water usage. While I’m generally parsimonious, I do tend to indulge when it comes to taking showers. For good or for bad, I love my showers and showers waste a lot more water than an open tap while washing dishes.
Thank god I hadn’t said anything.
I took away 3 notes from this moment –
1. If you’re going to give feedback to people, make sure you check your own behavior. There’s a story about a woman who went to Mahatma Gandhi and asked him to advise her son to give up unhealthy sweets. Gandhi asked her to come back in two weeks. After he’d spoken to her son two weeks later, she asked him why he’d delayed the conversation. He said he had to give up unhealthy sweets himself before he felt qualified to give her son advice. While it is likely this story is just that, a story, the moral still holds.
2. The best way to inspire change in people’s behavior is to encourage change to come from within. While some part of that can be achieved by talking to people, most intrinsic desire comes from people observing others around them. We are the average of the five people we choose to be closest to. And, that’s because we generally learn most from these people – whether or not they’re trying to “teach” us.
3. An idea for driving down energy and water wastage would be to have meters that provide data on our usage versus the average in our community. Nothing like a bit of data and peer pressure to make people change behavior.