We are a suspicious society.
We are trained to distrust people’s intentions.
Some fifteen years ago, my friend was driving me home at night. The United States was still new to me, and I had a lot of cultural adjusting to do.
At one point during our dark drive I spotted someone with car trouble by the side of the road. The hood of her Honda was up, and she seemed distressed. To my surprise, my friend drove right past her without blinking an eye.
“Are you crazy,?” I cried indignantly. “Why didn’t you stop to help the poor woman?”
“That’s a very bad idea,” my friend said. “For one, she might think that we’re coming to molest her. Two: Her friends could be waiting in the wings to mug us. Why don’t you take my phone and let the police know what’s going on. They’ll handle it.”
“Whatever happened to being a good Samaritan?” I asked.
“Forget that,” said my friend. “You can’t trust anyone anymore. This is America. People have guns, and they are not afraid to use them.”
I was flabbergasted. In the Netherlands where I came from, not helping someone in need could be interpreted as criminal negligence. In the USA it apparently was a liability.
But America has more trust issues.
FLYER OR FIVER
A few years ago, Kyle MacDonald conducted a social experiment. He took to the streets with a stack of flyers and five-dollar bills. Much to his surprise, it was easier to hand out flyers than fivers. People didn’t seem to want his money because they believed Kyle had ulterior motives. After all, there’s no such thing as a free ride, right?
Suspicions about the true intentions of strangers are nothing new, by the way. Telling the story of the famous Trojan horse, the classic author Virgil coined the phrase Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes, often translated as Beware of Greeks bearing gifts. What he meant to say was this:
Do not trust an opponent who offers to do something nice for you.
As you can see, I just added another element to the mix. That of an opponent. That’s because those who assume the worst, often see people they don’t know as adversaries, competitors, or as folks they should be afraid of.
I guess it takes one, to know one.
Don’t get me wrong. There are some pretty scary individuals out there, ready to scam our grandparents, abduct our kids, and steal our identities. Radicalized, brainwashed fanatics will kill themselves and many others to glorify their G-d. We need to be vigilant, but we also need to put things into perspective.
Just because something bad might happen, doesn’t mean it will. Most of the time it doesn’t. Random acts of kindness are performed every day. There are still genuinely kind and trustworthy people in this world, who wish to help their fellow human beings out, no strings attached.
The voice-over community I am a part of, is blessed with countless supportive Samaritans who are ready to assist you, whether you’re a veteran or a newcomer. They recommend colleagues to clients, and people get hired because of it every day.
They critique each other’s demos and websites for free, they answer questions about rates, and they put their two cents in when asked about what audio equipment to buy. Just spend some time on Facebook and LinkedIn; read a few blogs, and you’ll pick up golden nuggets at no cost whatsoever.
Yet, I found out that free advice is not always welcomed and appreciated. Sometimes, it is treated with utmost suspicion.
NO CRITICISM ALLOWED
The moderator of a particular voice-over Facebook group (which shall remain unnamed) made it clear that no one was allowed to be “negative” about cheap sites like Fiverr.com and VoiceBunny. “Everyone has to start somewhere,” was his reasoning, and “we should not discourage talent to sell their services on those types of websites.”
I am not going to repeat myself by telling you where I stand in terms of those sites. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know exactly how I feel. Here’s the thing, though. I sometimes see it as my mission to educate clients and colleagues. After all, I’ve been around the block a few times, and I have this strange illusion that some of my insights might be helpful. Especially to those who are just starting out.
So, when a member of this particular Facebook group made some comments about Fiverr, I couldn’t keep my big mouth shut. As it turned out, I wasn’t the only one. Soon, other experienced colleagues chimed in with valuable advice which was… not appreciated at all. It didn’t take long before the name calling began.
We were accused of being old school, pretentious know-it-alls who did not understand where beginners were coming from. Perhaps we felt threatened by young talent? Is that why we told people to stay away from the bargain basement?
TALKING TO A WALL
No matter how hard we tried to inject some logic and common sense into the discussion, people kept on questioning our motives. They thought we just wanted to impress, or perhaps get some coaching clients out of the exchange.
Then the moderator (who took part in the back-and-forth) had had enough. With the click of a mouse, he removed the entire thread. That’s when I decided to remove myself from the group.
When the mind is closed, it is futile to teach a new dog new tricks.
Yet, I cannot put all the blame on the inexperienced, skeptical members of this group. When people regard you as an uninvited guest, it’s often better to stay under the radar, and I didn’t.
In my view, people are more open to advice from those they know and trust. I did not really know the people I was talking to, and they clearly didn’t trust me. There was no rapport, and that was mistake number one.
Secondly, people don’t like it when their ignorance is publicly exposed. They feel humiliated, and become defensive. Perhaps I had advocated my point of view as THE truth, which is never a good thing. Many roads lead to Rome. Some are just a bit longer than others. People need to learn from their mistakes, so, who am I to deny them a significant aha moment?
Opinions can be discarded. Life experience is harder to refute.
Instead of blasting the group with my “wisdom,” I should have asked: “May I give a suggestion?” That usually removes resistance. I could also have presented them with several perspectives. People like to be in charge, and they want to make their own choices.
Third, when people make an investment (e.g. in my services as a coach), they tend to be more invested in what is offered. For instance, I can tell one person something, and they respond with “Whatever.” I can say the same thing to a student, and they tell me it’s the best suggestion they’ve ever gotten.
The last piece of advice I would give myself is this:
Don’t waste your time giving eye-openers to people who are willfully blind.
When a horse isn’t thirsty, you can’t get it to drink.
Please don’t ask me why the horse isn’t thirsty, but I have my suspicions…
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice
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photo credit: Day 5, Ape Can’t Trust Man via photopin (license)
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