There are easily fifty thousand religious groups in the world, most of whom claim to have the inside track to Heaven. Their adherents insist you join them. Ditto for thousands of political parties. Inevitably, some of their representatives (Believers and proselytizers) will accost you with a view to recruiting you. Mostly, this is just background noise.
But when the Believer is someone important to you-- a child, a spouse, a brother, a work colleague, an old friend, you can’t just blow them off. If the relationship is to be preserved, it’s going to be up to you.
First, understand your very different perspectives. The Believer’s "Big Picture" and your "Big Picture" are radically different. To the Believer, it’s “Get on board or go to Hell”, but you, in good conscience can’t see it that way. The Believer is prepared to gamble the relationship. You, on the other hand, want to preserve it. If the relationship is going to be preserved, there’s only one person who can do it-- you!
Frankly, there are no snappy answers, but there are a few principles which may help:
1. Make it clear that in this conversation you are the host, they are the guest.
2. Respect them: the person opposite shares 99.9% of your DNA. But for the grace of God, you might be in their shoes.
3. Respect their dream. To you, their message may be abhorrent. To them it has become central to their identity. If you show disdain, you will lose them.
4. Show humility. There is a possibility you are not the smartest person on the planet. Be prepared to listen, respectfully.
5. Discern why this conversation is happening. Are they earning “points”, or are they genuinely concerned for your welfare? Do they really understand what they’re selling, or are they playing a recording? Be patient--remember, you are the host.
6. If they are genuinely concerned for your welfare, express your gratitude. This is not the same as agreeing with their position.
7. Hear them out before you respond. Don’t be in a rush to counterattack.
8. Questions are better than attack-- far better to leave them doubting themselves than to provide evidence that you are an agent of Satan.
9. Understand their fear-- if they were to begin to question their own position, in their logic, they may be risking Hell. Don’t take that lightly-- would you?
10. Once you have patiently and courteously heard them out, ask “Is there anything else?” Be sure they have “said their piece”.
11. End the conversation cordially, let them go away and reflect.
12. Make sure they understand that you love them because of who they are, regardless of what they believe.
If you do this, it will likely end well.
Go in peace!
Hope this helps! Send to a friend.
Norman Bowley is a communicator by passion, a lawyer and educator by profession. Thirty-six years of legal practice after ten years as an educator have equipped Norm to teach professionals how to communicate effectively and with power.