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When I was a “suit” working on Wall Street back in the 80’s, and you said I should be a Salesman working strictly on commission, I would have told you that you were NUTS!! Yet, as the old saying goes: If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans; my plans were turned around and by 1992 I was working as a commission-only salesman, doing the hardest of all types of sales- in the home from a telemarketing lead. And God helped me by placing good trainers in my path so that after about 2 years in that field I was one of the top two salesmen in the country selling siding, windows, and kitchen refacing.
You may wonder what this has to do with the title of today’s message, and I’ll be happy to tell you how:
Nowhere, in all of my experience throughout three different career paths, did I learn as much about human nature and how to get my ideas across successfully to others then when I learned how to sell.
Selling is the “Poor Man’s” career in Psychology. It isn’t so much manipulation of people as it is getting them to reject their own pre-conceived ideas and actually listen and absorb what you are saying to them. They still get to make up their own minds, but a good salesman will do three things:
- Make them realize that what they think they want is not what they need;
- Show them that what he has is really what they need;
- Allow them to come to their own conclusion that what he has is not just what they need, but what they want.
People don’t buy what they need but they do buy what they want, and when we take this from the commercial applications to the spiritual, we need to be able to “sell” the idea that what they need and want is Messiah and obedience to God which must come about through proper interpretation of God’s Word. .
Now we get into the real meat of today’s message- how do we get past that first step in which we are disagreeing with their pre-conceived ideas without making them kick us out the door? I can tell you this, absolutely…it isn’t by slapping them in the face with the truth.
I am a member of half a dozen different “Christian” or “Messianic” discussion groups, and too often I run into people with ideas totally opposite to my understanding. And no matter what their ideas are, or mine (for that matter), if we cannot discuss or argue in a respectful and proper manner, then we achieve nothing.
The proper way to disagree with someone is not to tell them they are wrong, and never, never, NEVER attack them on a personal level. You can’t win someone over by insulting them (remember that old saw about how you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar?) I am not saying you should agree with them or say something like “You might be right” if you really believe they are wrong, but disagree with them and do it with respect for their right to choose what they want to believe.
God has given each of us Free Will to choose, and when people tell me (as I often have to deal with) that I am wrong and I have to change, they are (in my opinion) abrogating my God-given right to choose.
NOTE: did you catch that style of disagreeing? Starting off with “in my opinion”, or “for me”, or even “what I have been taught…” is a way to disagree and get your opinion out there which will allow them to listen without feeling the need to defend themselves. Thats’ becasue the focus is on you, not them.
I will try to respectfully disagree with people without attacking them, although I might attack what they have been taught. When I do this I make sure that first I have a biblical reference to justify my position. I state how proper biblical interpretation must account for historical and linguistic context, hermeneutics, etc. in justifying my position, but I will not come right out and tell them they are wrong.
Having said that, there are times when I will be very straightforward and say they are wrong, but not in a way that blames them for being wrong. I will say that what they have been taught is wrong- attacking what they have been told without attacking them. I will say that they have been taught is a form of traditional doctrine, that what they have been told is not in compliance with the Bible (showing them the Bible reference), or some other means of demonstrating that what they are saying is not accurate but not saying that THEY are inaccurate.
At some point, usually after two or three back-and-forth discussions, if I can see that they are not ever going to even consider what I am saying, I ask them if we can just agree to disagree and let God judge between us. If the other side is spiritually and emotionally mature, we will end friends. But, unfortunately, too many times pridefulness overrules spirituality and the other side just can’t let it go. They will continue to post their side, and from the frustration that comes from my not bending to their will, they stop talking about the Bible and begin to attack me, personally. They call me spiritually empty, unknowing, ignorant, demonically possessed (yes, there have been people who have accused me of that), and any number of nasty, virile attacks against me. That is why God invented BLOCKING on Facebook.
When the discussion turns from your ideas and beliefs being argued to you being insulted and berated, it is time to shake the dust off your sandals and move on. Let them have the last word, you be the humble one and accept that you can’t make someone change their mind if they don’t want to.
How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but the lightbulb has to really want to change.
People are the same way. And remember: there is very little good soil out there to begin with, and we are just here to sow the seeds.
After having read this, if you disagree with me about any part of it, that’s OK- you have a right to! And if you agree with me, that’s much better, but the hard thing is not to just understand what I am saying but to actually use it in real life. When people are so passionate about what they believe that they can’t stand the thought of someone else not agreeing with them, the situation can become very tense and hurtful before you even know it is happening. Practice makes perfect, as with any skill, and if you find that your arguments keep falling on deaf ears, first I would suggest you verify that you are correct. Review your position with an open-minded approach and, if after doing so, you still believe your original position is the correct one but no one is listening to you, consider that you might need to change your method of argumentation.
No matter how “right” we may think we are, if we can’t get people to listen to us we might as well say nothing.