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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Conversation vs. Conversion - Your Job

What is your job in this whole process?

If you see it as your job to convince people that you're right and they're wrong, to attack false beliefs and set people straight on the true path, then you want to try and convert people. I had that job once, it's called "sales." I did not like being a sales person, it just doesn't line up with my personality. I don't like pushing people to make a decision.* That's part of the reason that I wasn't a very good sale person. I liked the product that I sold (computers, if you must know), but not so much that I wanted to get pushy with people. I loved the part of the job were I could train people to use their computers better and help them solve problems.

If you see your job as helping people to solve their own problems and walking with them to learn how to do life better, then you are a conversationalist. You want to engage in the process rather than just aiming for the end result. Conversation is never quick. It's never the fastest way to convince someone of your point. It takes time to listen, process, share and just be still. Conversation is never quick, but it's the best way to begin to change someone's mind.

But, in the end, it's not really your job to change minds. Are you so vain that you think that your 15 minutes of talking can undo a lifetime of beliefs? That's really what we believe if we try to convert people. We think that our words are so much better than the beliefs that people hold that they will be convinced by the words alone. So, we either have a high opinion of our own words or a very low opinion of the people we're talking to. Rather, if we take the time to engage in conversation, we can walk with people through changes at their own pace and when they're ready. We don't force things, we sense things. We learn to see when people are looking for change and we are available in that process.

How can you learn to do your job better?

* Sales is not a bad thing. I know plenty of people in sales who have amazing hearts and do their jobs for the good of other people. I'm reflecting on my experience, not trying to say that sales is bad or that sales people are bad.

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