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Throwing Pebbles At A Boulder--Part 2

Throwing Pebbles At A Boulder--Part 2

Hello and good day!

Two dozen or so neighbors stood in the street, throwing small gravel pebbles at a boulder. The boulder blocked the only road out of their forested neighborhood and the people were desperate to move the boulder so that they could make it to work on time.The more desperate they became, the harder they threw.


And the harder they threw the miniscule stones, the faster the stones ricocheted off the boulder and came flying back towards them. Many neighbors now had scrapes on their faces from pebbles that had come back and nicked them. Finally, one of the neighbors decided to speak up and put an end to the futility.

"It's never going to work. The pebbles are too light. We're only hurting ourselves. We need a different plan," said the neighbor. Everybody nodded in agreement. But nobody knew what to do next.

"What are we going to do?" asked another. They all stood in silence, contemplating the problem. Finally, an older woman spoke up.

"Let's go over and take a good look at the boulder. Let's touch it and observe it and run our hands over the surface. Let's take some time to really get to know it. And then we'll see if we can come up with a good idea," said the woman.

"But we're all in a hurry! I have an important deadline! I need to get to work on time today!" shouted one neighbor. Several others yelled in agreement.

"Would you rather get there a little late, or not at all? There doesn't appear to be a fast way to solve this. We've called the municipality and they won't have the necessary equipment available until tomorrow," said the older woman.

"If it is important that we move the boulder as soon as possible, we have to think it through. We can't be rash. If we use our minds and study the issue, maybe we can get out of here within the next couple of hours," continued the woman. As there was no easily apparent alternative, the group assented and followed the woman over to the gigantic rock.

For the next twenty minutes, they did nothing more than touch and look. They didn't push. They didn't strike. They didn't take any action whatsoever to move the rock. They simply looked and felt, ran their hands over the rough, hard, uneven surface of the big rock, put their fingers in small indentures, and thought about what it all meant.

"This rock has divots. In certain parts, there are dents where the surface is chipped away. Underneath the dents, the material is chalky. With a couple dozen chisels, and a couple hours of work, we might be able to chip away at the boulder until it is small enough to push," said one of the neighbors.

"But we can't spare a couple of hours!" grumbled several neighbors. "We need to move this rock now! And chiseling will be too much work!"

"A rock like this can't be moved fast. That is the reality. We must attempt to chip away at it if we want any chance of clearing the road today. If it is as important as you say it is, this is our best chance," said the older woman.

Dejected, the neighbors went home to gather tools. They returned with hammers and mallets, crowbars and chisels. They stuck the tips of the chisels into the indentures and banged away.

Sure enough, large chunks began to fall away, and as the chunks fell, neighbors threw them into an open field next to the intersection. The work of removing one chunk at a time continued for more than an hour, until finally, all that remained was a miniature version of the boulder that could be rolled to the side of the road.

It wasn't as easy as throwing pebbles, but in the grand scheme of things, it didn't take very long at all. The happy neighbors thanked the old woman who insisted on slowing down and getting to know the boulder. Each threw their tools, their hammer and chisel, into the trunk of their car and drove onto the main road to head to work.

Here is the point of the story.

Beliefs are like boulders. Attacking arguments are pebbles that ricochet back at you. Small pebbles are easy to fling, but they frequently return to nick you in the face.

If somebody holds a deeply seated belief that you feel you must change, it is better to understand the true nature of the problem at hand. There is a widespread underestimation of what it takes to change a person's mind about anything important.

On questions of spirituality, politics, self-worth, failed relationships, doing business in a new way, etc. the likelihood is that any convincing job will take years and years. And if you hope to have success, a thorough period of understanding must precede the presentation of arguments.

It took us several years of getting to know our cacao farm partners before we could convince them to do business with us as outsiders who they didn't know well.   We had to learn about their problems and desires, and we had to craft solutions to what ailed them.

We needed to know where the dents were so that we could place our chisels properly. Then we had to remove the chunks one at a time.

On the other hand, I know good friends who refuse to discuss certain topics because they always end up in terrible arguments. Each attacks the other's position and a melee breaks out every time. This mode of communication shows that neither believes that changing the other's mind is truly important.

If it were, one would attempt to do it right. And if it isn't important enough to do right, why argue in the first place? It damages the relationship with your friend.

It is throwing pebbles at a boulder.

What got me thinking about this was a message we recently received from an ex-customer. They didn't like how we do something and decided to send in a short, attacking message, essentially telling us that we are fools who practice poor ethics.

Do you think this person changed our minds one bit? Will we change our way of operating? Will we reconsider our ethics?

It is very unlikely.

Instead, it made my blood boil and I felt like lashing out to defend myself. I had revenge on my mind, not a desire to reexamine our point of view. In the end, we decided to dismiss the person politely.

However, as I've thought about the interaction over the last few days, I've come to realize that this person could have made deep inroads into our point of view if they'd approached it differently.

Our boulder probably could have been significantly chipped away with a different, more understanding and more patient presentation. Anyhow, as an experienced marketer, and a decent persuader, I know that this way of doing things works well.

It works with spouses, children, friends, co-workers, public officials, business partners, and just about everybody else.

Please consider it. By flinging pebbles, you only hurt yourself.

Thank you so much for your time today.

I hope that you have a truly blessed day!