They – you know, them, the experts – tell us that we all have a favorite topic, one we would rather talk about than anything else, and that topic is – ourselves.
I have no idea whether there is any truth to this statement, but I recently met with a person who clearly had been talking with “them” and had unhesitatingly bought their line.
“John” called me two weeks ago and mentioned that a close, personal friend of mine had suggested he contact me and that I would be very open to hearing how he could improve the quality of my life. When I asked which of my close, personal friends had been so kind and thoughtful as to refer me to him, he brushed aside my question by telling me that he had promised my friend that he would keep her identity confidential.
Foolishly, I agree to meet with him and he agreed that meeting was a good idea despite my telling him that there was a slim to zero chance of me ever becoming his client.
We scheduled a one-hour time slot for our meeting. John arrived almost 20 minutes late, sat down, told me that he thought it important that I know a little of his background before getting too deeply involved in discussing the benefits of the products he was selling and then launched into a minutely detailed memoir outlining every experience of his life from birth to the present day.
I learned far more than I needed to know of John’s upbringing, the challenges he faced growing up, his two marriages, three kids and that both of his grandfathers fought in the second world war.
John also regaled me with stories of his remarkable success as a salesperson going so far as to show me hard-copy letters of his magnificent accomplishments going all the way back to the late 1970s. Interestingly, none of the letters were dated much beyond that.
Finally, just as I was considering stabbing myself in the eye with a pen, John, with a grandiose gesture, completed his biography and generously said, “Let’s take a few minutes and tell me a little about yourself.”
His timing was perfect for at that precise moment my next client arrived at my office, highlighting the scintillating fact that John had taken almost 45 minutes to talk about himself and his greatness.
My client’s arrival gave me the perfect opportunity to usher John out of the office thus preventing me from further focusing on the benefits of involuntary euthanasia.
Other than his name not being “John,” I have described the above with complete accuracy and chose to write about it as a sound reminder that our interests are almost always furthered when we choose to direct the spotlight away from ourselves and engage in dialogue, rather than in delivering a monologue.
I recently read a book that focused on the importance and power of storytelling. The author constantly reminded the reader that for a story to be well received and successful, the hero of the story needs to be the audience, not the storyteller.
John made himself the hero of his story and nothing he said was of any value (or interest) to me.
My only knowledge of what John does is that he sells some form of insurance. He used all of the time he had available to not tell me how he could help make my life better. In fact, he did not even make the effort to ask a single question to ascertain whether I had any need or desire for his products.
I am thankful to John for he taught me how not to be and knowing what not to do is every bit as important as knowing what to do.
And there is never a downside to making someone other than ourselves the hero of our stories.
Till we read again.