We often look at how to make our lives better. It may be in the area of weight loss, how to make more money, have better relationships or to believe in ourselves more. When our worldview is not serving us particularly well, we will have our moments of vulnerability. We want to believe in something and there are often others willing to tell us how to go about it.
In my teens, I joined a faith system that seemed to have all the answers. Among other things, this group worked hard to try to convert others to their beliefs. This is not something unique to religion, however.
I was not a very good salesperson. My colleagues were more motivated. One reason I later changed the group I hung out with was that I was more laid back than those who wanted to proselytize. A lesson I learned at this time has been invaluable however – how to respond to those who are trying to convert me or sell to me. The method is quite simple, and not much different from the questions 3-year-olds ask when they are starting to explore the world – asking “why” constantly and often annoyingly until getting answers that make sense. Asking the salesperson to break down his beliefs (whether they are religious, business, monetary, relationship) making them get rid of their generic or technical language and tell me what it means to them – the “whys”, the “whats” and the “hows” of their beliefs.
The sales pitches we get in life often come from a couple directions. There are the emotional arguments and there is the reasoned, logical pitch. There are those wanting to sell us something, which are easier to see. Then others want us to think and believe as they do.
We all, in our way, want others to think as we do. It makes us more comfortable in our surroundings. We like to spend time with those who think like us. Even those who see themselves as more open-minded spend more time with those who are open-minded in a similar way. It makes life easier, less stressful, more enjoyable.
Over the last year, a friend had been trying to explain an incident in her life and the impact it had on her. It was her “sales pitch” to get me to understand her better. She was upset because I did not get it. One part of what I didn’t understand is how different parts of what she was telling me came together. It didn’t make sense. The language was too general, not specific enough. I finally asked her to break it down, get personal, explain the details. It wasn’t easy since it was a difficult place for her to go, but when she did, I got a better understanding of what she had been trying to tell me.
Dig deeply with your “why” questions. This can be difficult to do. We may not want to go as deeply as needed to gain understanding. Interestingly, the salesperson may often not want to go there either. At this point we have a few options. We can accept without fully understanding, taking on the danger of not knowing exactly what we are agreeing to. I did this in my teens. Alternatively, we can walk away – which at times is the best choice. I have done this in numerous relationships. Patience is a third option – waiting for the salesperson to answer our annoying “why” questions so we can understand them, and perhaps even believe.
Reggie E, MSW, CEAP, joined Empathia in 2005 as an EAP Counselor. Reggie has a master’s degree in Social Work as well as bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and the Comparative Study of Religion from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Prior to a career change to social work, he worked in a variety of fields including banking, trucking and metal fabrication.