Growing up, we were taught to believe in certain thing or hold certain values by our parents, teachers or figures of authority. While it’s not necessarily a bad thing passing on teachings and values to the younger generation, some of us went to the extent of imposing it not just on children but also our peers.
When I learned about personality type from my mentor, he always reminded us not to pigeon-hole people or to suffer from a condition he calls B.L.M. which stands for Be Like Me. It gave me a whole new perspective to how I perceive people. With the knowledge of personality, I learned to respect people for who they are instead of judging them. However, there are many people who still have a set of expectations (obviously suffering from B.L.M.) on how others should behave. When they do not get the responses they expect, they get upset or disappointed or puzzled.
About 10 years ago, I was in an MLM business. I was still working but I was sold on the idea of creating passive income so I could quit my job. The problem, which wasn’t a problem at all, was that I didn’t hate my job. But that’s how most MLM business builders market their business plan. Typically it’s about working towards generating passive income so you can achieve financial or time freedom. Quit your job, fire your boss, that sort of thing.
I used the same approach the MLM leaders taught me and started “preaching” others the same way. Obviously, those who are not very happy with their current jobs were happy to get on board. I was even trying to sell my best friend the idea of financial freedom. I can’t recall the exact words she said but what she said struck me. She asked me if I’ve ever wondered some people are happy employees who don’t mind the 9-5 and actually enjoy what they do. Well, of course I stopped talking to her about the MLM business.
Only years later that I came to the realization that I was “imposed” this belief that happiness is when I don’t need to be in the office 9-5 and having a boss. But I was happy! I enjoyed waking up early, going to work, having a boss guiding or mentoring me, having lunch with my colleagues, etc. While I also enjoy my flexibility as an entrepreneur, I do miss those days when I was an employee.
Reasons Not to Impose Our Beliefs or Values on Others
We’ve all been guilty of imposing our beliefs or values on others. We want others to behave like us, do what we do and think like we do. At what expense? Broken trust and sour relationships?
Here are 4 reasons we should not impose our beliefs or values on others:
It’s a narcissistic thing to do
Just because you’re right doesn’t mean they’re wrong. Don’t be like narcissists who think their beliefs and values are the most ideal for everyone to follow. This is a good example of a person suffering from B.L.M. Would you want to interact with people who don’t listen to you and constantly try to take control or steal your autonomy?
It makes people feel that you don’t care about them
Back in high school, I went for a weekend getaway to Penang with two friends. One of them was familiar with the state so she took us around. She kept forcing me to eat this and that, saying it was really good and popular. Never mind that I actually didn’t like some of those food. It was her favourite and she thought it was good so I must like it too. By the end of the trip, I vowed to myself I would never go on holidays with her ever again.
It can be disrespectful or offensive
I grew up and live in a multi-cultural society. We were taught to be culturally aware. We don’t offer pork to our Muslim friends and beef to our Hindu friends. Apart from religious values, we also have lifestyle values that we should respect. Once the cashier at the checkout counter in a grocer said, “It’s just 20 cent for a plastic bag” to the shopper who probably did some last minute shopping. He chose to hold all his items because he didn’t have a bag with him. For an environmentalist, it’s not that 20 cent, it’s about the plastic bag. I bet he wouldn’t even want that plastic bag if it was free.
It might cost you the relationship
…or a business. While I understand a little bit of push can be helpful especially when we know it’s going to add values to people’s lives. However, if we want to persuade someone to do something, we first need to understand and make sure we’re on the same page.
I remember one time my customer insisted on a certain design that just didn’t make sense to me. I tried pushing her to agree with the design I proposed, thinking it would look better. After a few rounds or “argument”, she reluctantly agreed with my art direction. Somehow I just got the feeling that she just wanted to get it over with and be done with me. I never hear back anymore. I made a mistake by not trying to understand why she wanted things certain ways.
Respect Other People’s Model of the World
The next time you catch yourself trying to impose your beliefs or values onto others, try to reflect on these questions:
- Do you think it’s for their best interests or yours? What’s the objective you’re trying to achieve?
- Do you know what their desires and beliefs are?
- How pushing this further can impact your relationship with this person?
Who knows these questions might just help you become a better communicator that it could improve your persuasion skills without having people to feel that you’re imposing your values on them.