Can I interest you in talking about Security?

I had a discussion last week with some fellow security folks about how we can discuss security with normal people. If you pay attention to what’s going on, you know the security people and the non security people don’t really communicate well. We eventually made our way to comparing what we do to the door to door religious groups. They’re rarely seen in a positive light, are usually annoying, and only seem to show up when it’s most inconvenient. This got me thinking, we probably have more in common there than we want to admit, but there are also some lessons for us.

Firstly, nobody wants to talk to either group. The reasons are basically the same. People are already mostly happy with whatever choices they’ve made and don’t need someone showing up to mess with their plans. Do you enjoy being told you’re wrong? Even if you are wrong, you don’t want someone telling you this. At best you want to figure it out yourself but in reality you don’t care and will keep doing whatever you want. It’s part of being an irrational human. I’m right, you’re wrong, everything else is just pointless details.

Let’s assume you are certain that the message you have is really important. If you’re not telling people something useful, you’re wasting their time. It doesn’t matter how important a message is, the audience has to want to hear it. Nobody likes having their time wasted. In this crazy election season, how often are you willing to not just hang up your phone when a pollster calls? You know it’s just a big waste of time.

Most importantly though, you can’t act pretentious. If you think you’re better than whoever you’re talking to, even if you’re trying hard not to show it, they’ll know. Humans are amazing at understanding what another person is thinking by how they act. It’s how we managed to survive this long. Our monkey brains are really good at handling social interactions without us even knowing. How often do you talk to someone who is acting superior to you, and all you want to do is stop talking to them.

Now what?

It’s really easy to point all this stuff out, most of us probably know this already. So what can we start doing different? In the same context of door to door selling, it’s far more powerful if someone comes to you. If they come to you, they want to learn and understand. So while there isn’t anything overly new and exciting, the thing that’s best for us to remember today is just be available. If you’re approachable, you will be approached, and when they do, make sure you don’t drive your audience away. If someone wants to talk to you about security, let them. And be kind, understanding, and sympathetic.

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