Are You Selling or Sharing?

I stood in disbelief listening to a man in a cowboy hat.

My patience waned as he described the wonder product he felt I should learn more about. He passed me a business card while listing off a host of professional athletes endorsing the thingamajig and guaranteed I’d be impressed by the medical knowledge displayed in the final two-thirds of the eighteen-minute video on his website.

“You expect me to spend twenty minutes of my precious free time watching that after you just hijacked 60 seconds of my life?” I thought.

I wondered how “Where are you heading on your trip?” became “Please tell me what you’re selling!” in his mind.

The sudden shift jarred my brain.

My genuine interest in his 50-day excursion through the Southeast dissipated in the train wreck of his sales pitch. I remembered Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.

The value of his wares–regardless of how grand–disappeared in the shadow of his actions. The clumsy transition from polite conversation to infomercial muted his voice. What began pleasant became unsavory.

I left the conversation somewhat offended.

Later, I pondered how often we confront unwanted communication.  In an age where information reaches across the globe in seconds, the propaganda bombardment mushrooms outward with each passing moment.

Regardless of native tongue, the tagline is always the same:

“You need this.”

The underlying point of most advertising is designed to make you feel inadequate, as though you lack a critical necessity. An oft-repeated mantra in the marketing world states reaching humans boils down to stimulating their desire for pleasure or making them afraid of pain.

Most choose to prey on fear.

I was reminded of a conversation I overheard the day before while dining at a fast food restaurant.

Three generations of black men discussed about the value of experienced eyes. The youngest quietly took in the thoughts of the verbose man two decades older as the the third–and oldest–added his own ideas from time to time.

This impromptu sermon had a decidedly different tone than my interaction with the guy in the boots.

“Can I help you?”

Though I am unsure the 29-year-old asked for the message, I am sure he was happy to receive it. In the midst of an uncertain time, he heard four comforting words:

“I’m here for you.”

Instead of being rapped on the skull with what he should do or admonished for what he did do, he was being offered an ear–and the opportunity to avoid repeating another’s mistakes.

This is the simplest gift you’ll ever give someone.

Showing people you care has incredible value.

Find a way to share yourself.

You’ll be surprised what you receive in return.

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