The American psychologist and writer, Daniel Pink, is claimed to collect ’emotionally intelligent signage’, according to Oliver Burkeman in today’s Guardian. This is signage that creates an empathy with people in order to encourage them to obey. So, for instance you would see ‘Please keep to the footpaths’ rather than ‘Don’t walk on the grass’. A more positive approach and one that more people tend to follow, apparently.
Coincidentally, I was discussing this very topic when out walking yesterday in the groundsof a nearby country house, open to visitors for just one month each year. Typical British weather in August, it was lashing down as we walked through the gardens. There were few other visitors, the rain saw to that – and perhaps the signs. Everywhere we looked there were threats and prohibitions. This is just a sample: We only open at 2pm. Don’t park here, your vehicle will be towed away; Stay off the grass; No picnicking allowed; Keep dogs on a leash; Keep away from the building work (scaffolding and builders around); No alcohol to be consumed; This area is monitored by CCTV. Don’t feed the ducks … and so on. Our party yesterday included two head teachers, a librarian and senior manager, all law-abiding folk accustomed to encouraging good behaviour in others. We laughed at the proliferation of all these ‘dont’s’ but there is a serious issue. What is the mentality behind this overly censorious approach to receiving visitors?
Evidently visitors are unwelcome. So, why do they open the family house and grounds in August? So that we, ‘local commoners’, get to see how the other half live? And pay for their restauration, most likely. Loughborough is due to receive the Japanese Olympians next year. There’s a lot of building work going on in the area. I hope that the powers-that-be also look at building good relationships and provide customer service training that includes the welcome people should receive. I suspect not. It’s rather a British thing to show disdain for customers, at the same time as wanting their money. Ah well, hope yet, as we did see this cosy cafe sign before we left.