The 3 Stages of Eco-Influence

The 3 Stages of Eco-Influence
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The 3 Stages of Eco-Influence

This is the 1st article in a series of 6 on how to increase your eco-influence by 60x.


There are very few eco-influence resources out there.  Luckily, the psychology and social influence resources we do have available are more than enough.

For you to influence another, it is critical for you to understand the most fundamental basics of personal development.  When you, I, or anyone changes a fundamental belief — especially their worldview — that process occurs in 3 distinct stages.

For the practical purposes of persuading others to take environmental action, we will refer to them as the 3 Stages of Influence: Contempt, Curiosity and Commitment.  Before I explain why, I’ll show you how we arrived here.

The only attempt to align environmental influence with psychological stages of change was done recently by Bob Doppelt in his book, The Power of Sustainability Thinking.

In this ground-breaking work, Bob re-names the 6 stages from Prochaska, Norcross and DiClemente’s work in Changing for Good.  From his strategic consulting with organizations trying to adopt sustainability, Bob knew one fundamental fact.  Information is only as valuable as peoples’ ability to remember it and put it to practical use in their daily lives.

By reducing the six stages to five, and changing the naming to be consistent, the very scientific sounding Precontemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, Maintenance and Termination became Doppelt’s 5-D Staged Approach to Change — Disinterest, Deliberation, Design, Doing and Defending.  He included them (albeit with less detail) in his follow-up book, From Me to We:.

The strength of starting with a psychology approach is what over-complicates this 5 stage model when using it to persuade others. It is extremely accurate from the perspective of the human brain chemistry, yet weak in clearly teaching an environmentalist eco-influence.  What is needed for practical application are the cues to listen for, how those cues translate into the correct stage, and what strategy to use for that stage.

If you’ve read one or more of these books, you can see that the cues are unclear and the strategies overlap.  See below.

5-D Staged Approach to Change

A simpler, more practical way to understand eco-influence is to use the 3 Stages of Eco-Influence: Contempt, Curiosity and Commitment.

3 Stages of Ecofluence




Although I have utmost respect for the authors of Changing for Good and Bob Doppelt’s sustainability expertise, a 3-stage approach is more in line with historical psychological models of change.  Ken Wilber’s extensive meta-analysis of the psychology field in Integral Psychology charts every major psychological model in history to find the common characteristics.  The 3 change stages that he finds across all models are referred to as Differentiation, Transcendence and Integration.

Clare Graves, the father of spiral dynamics theory, called the stages Chaos, Renewal and New Stability.  You read a summary of his theories in The Neverending Quest.

Other problems fixed by using a 3-stage approach:

  • Disinterest is technically not a Stage of Influence, it is the first of 5 Levels of Commitment
  • Deliberation cannot occur without simultaneous Design
  • Defending is technically not a Stage of Influence, it is a new entrance into Contempt
  • Contempt, Curiosity and Commitment refer to visible behavioral cues, not internal thoughts/feelings

You can choose to utilize any model of your liking, and many resources have been linked to here.  My opinion is that a 3-stage approach is best for the reasons listed above, when comparing the available options.  Two other key points make a compelling argument to using the 3-stage approach here.

  1. Once you know what Stage of Influence someone is in, you only have a general strategy.  You don’t know their Eco-Personality Type or their Level of Commitment.
  2. Remembering and putting to use 3 stages that start with C in your daily life will help simplify things.  Then, you can begin the next phase of your journey — laser focus on Eco-Personality Type and Level of Commitment — so that your efforts don’t fall on def ears.


ecofluencePRO Part 2: Stages & Strategies goes into tons of detail that I can’t list here.  It includes the two types of growth, expectations on time, and even more behavioral and verbal cues for identifying stages, including: what question words to listen for and how to interpret silent-stages.



Adam Hammes is the executive director of the Iowa Sustainable Business Forum, a consultant, author, and motivational speaker. He specializes in helping businesses and sustainability professionals with environmental and social performance.

Check out Adam's new book on Amazon, Audible and Kindle: Sustainable Business in Iowa.

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