Focus on the Undecided

Monday

W. Clement Stone, in his book, The Success System That Never Fails, said when he first started as a salesman he was spending an inordinate amount of time arguing with people who ended up not buying anything. He expended time and energy on these people with no results. It physically and emotionally wore him out.

So he instituted a rule for himself that if he wasn't getting anywhere after a predetermined amount of time, he would just pleasantly cut the conversation short and go onto his next prospect. He would cut his losses and move on, even if he had hope that he might yet change the person's mind. His new policy created startling results. "Wonderful things happened," he wrote. "I increased my average number of sales per day tremendously."

I think we need to be more efficient in that way too.

In a Citizen Warrior article (click here to read it), I wrote about a debate conducted by Intelligence Squared. Before the debate they took a poll of the audience. A certain percentage of them were for the proposition that Islam is a religion of peace, and certain percentage were against the proposition, and a certain percentage were undecided.

After the debate those who were for and those who were against hadn't changed their opinions very much, but a lot of the undecideds changed their opinion to "Islam is not a religion of peace."

The results of that debate show that we might benefit from using W. Clement Stone's philosophy and cut our losses when we run across someone whose mind is made up already (unless you have nothing else to do because you're stuck in a waiting room with them for awhile, or unless you have no other people to talk to and you've already convinced everybody you know except those whose minds are already made up).

In other words, let's first focus our efforts on the people in our lives who haven't yet made up their minds about Islam. We will make far more progress in far less time. Once all of the undecideds have been educated, then let's turn our attention to the stubborn ones (approaching the least stubborn first). Let's be efficient. Let's be maximally effective. Let's change the most minds we can in the shortest possible time.

Another added bonus we might get from this policy is that the stubborn ones may become less so. Stone says when he started limiting the amount of time he wasted arguing with people, his daily average went up. "What's more," he wrote, "the prospect in several instances thought I was going to argue, but when I left him so pleasantly, he would come next door to where I was selling and say, 'You can't do that to me. Every other insurance man would hang on. You come back and write it.' Instead of being tired out after an attempted sale, I experienced enthusiasm and energy for my presentation to the next prospect."

It's possible that the tremendous stubbornness we sometimes run into may ease up when we stop pushing so hard. Doing something unexpected can often cause a change in mental and emotional patterns. Pleasantly ending an argument without winning may be just the sort of surprising maneuver that could help change someone's mind.

But in the meantime, you'll be focusing your attention on where you can have the most impact.

4 comments:

John 1:24 AM  

For undecided,

some questions here:

http://www.islamreview.com/articles/whyallah.shtml

Anonymous 4:18 AM  

You are so right. Will follow that advice and stop arguing with my favourite facebook friend who doesn't want to stop believing that islam is just as good or bad as any other religion.

Regards
Zhula

Traeh 10:20 PM  

Excellent advice. Thank you.

Florian euring 6:04 AM  

A good article. But there had been times, when I thought that Islam is a religion of peace. The facts made me change my mind.

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