If you’re like me, you know people who dislike Provo. It’s a sentiment I completely understand because for at least the first two years after I arrived in the city, I didn’t like it at all.
I eventually grew to appreciate Provo immensely, but I still sometimes find myself at a loss for how to convincingly express that sentiment to others. Having grown up in the L.A. area, for example, I frequently find myself talking to people from my home region. And even though I feel like L.A. is probably the most disastrous major metro I’ve ever been to, I’m usually at a loss for how to explain why — persuasively and in a way that will get my friends to genuinely consider what I’m saying — Provo, of all places, is superior.
So after a great deal of trial, error, and contemplation, here are a few (far from comprehensive) thoughts on how to begin changing the minds of Provo-haters. (If you have other suggestions, please let me know.)
First, before you say anything at all to you friends,
1. Ask a lot of questions. What do your friends like about their city? What do they dislike about Provo? What things have they experienced in both places, and whom do they associate with? One of my problems is that I make assumptions about people — that they agree with me about L.A.’s problems, for example, or about their social and cultural preferences — that often turn out to be false. I think the most important thing to do if you find yourself in a conversation about Provo is immediately turn the tables and begin deciphering your friends’ assumptions about place, their home cities, and Provo. In my case, I constantly have to remind myself to keep asking questions, even after I feel I’ve heard enough.
2. Understand you objectives. Do you want you friends to speak more positively about Provo? Do you want them to get out in the city and and do more things? Are you trying to convey a certain image or vision you have for the city that your friends do not share? Sometimes I find myself making arcane points like “But my neighborhood has a walk score of 75!” when I actually just want to pass along a visceral sense that in Provo one may live The Good Life. So I try to analyze what I actually think I can accomplish in any given conversation.
3. Figure out your friend’s status. Is your friend considering a move to Provo? Is she a college student considering sticking around after graduation? Is she a long-time resident that doesn’t really appreciate the city? Maybe she’s even moving away, but could possibly speak positively about Provo in a new place (which is very valid objective). Either way, it’s important to understand the context in which your friends will be thinking, and speaking, about Provo.
I could go on and on, but eventually you’re going to have to start making actual points if you’re going to persuade your friends that Provo is a worthy competitor to other cities. And that’s an important part of the process, because a city with good buzz is often a successful place. Consequently, I’ll get into a few ideas for making those points in my next post.