Every person who stops me on the street and tries to convert me to an Eastern Religion uses the same line, and I can see why. It’s an excellent line.
I work in the part of town where the twanging and screeching of buskers rebounds across the streets, adults in bibs holding plastic buckets stand on the corners collecting for the charity of the day, and pigeons bathe in the splash of the fountain.
I try to avoid the street as much as possible because, you know, people, but sometimes I’m hungry, in need of coffee, or I have a meeting down the far end of town, and I’m forced to venture into this madhouse.
When I do, there’s another type of person who often steps into my path and engages me in inescapable conversation.
I don’t know what to call her because I never figured out entirely what she wants, but my best guess is Eastern Religion Conversionist. (Yes, that could be a word.)
I’ll call her Erc.
Erc approaches me holding a beautifully bound hardback book and asks if I’ve discovered the teachings of Spiritual Leader X, Yogic Y, or the Great Canine.
(I included the Great Canine as a joke. The Great Cat didn’t think it was funny either.)
She opens the book and shows me pictures of a spiritual-looking man sitting in a meditative pose.
More like this:
Though I have to say I rather like this second picture. It’s very fantasy. Wolf man prays to the barbarian gods before grasping his sword and setting out to avenge the destruction of his village and death of his parents.
Erc asks me what I do for work and if I’m a teacher. (I’m carrying a folder, so clearly I must be because teachers are the only people who ever carry folders.)
I smile and say “some days”.
(I never lie to Erc because there’s a small chance she might have a smite-y deity behind her. That doesn’t mean I have to tell the whole truth, though.)
She tries to give me the book–free, of course–but I can’t take it in good faith knowing I’ll never read it. I also expect as soon as she gets it in my hands she’ll ask for a donation and I’ll feel too guilty to say no.
After I refuse the book for the fourth time, Erc knows she’s losing me. My feet are already heading down the street. Erc is desperate, so she plays her strongest line.
“You’re obviously a very calm person. What’s your secret?”
The first time I heard this I was gullible enough to feel flattered.
Well actually, I’ve just stepped out in the middle of a hectic day of work, my stress levels exited Earth’s orbit nine minutes ago, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to be late for my important meeting but I can’t figure out how to escape you without being rude.
Me: (mysterious/panicked smile)
Me: Um, thanks. I guess I’m just a calm person.
The second time, it was more like this.
Hmm, that sounds familiar. Where have I heard it before?
That’s right, the last time an Erc stopped me.
By the third time I was certain: Ercs have a play-book, a secret manual that gives them all the lines to feed you.
Page 2 of the Erc manual: If your victim still seems desperate to escape, use the line, You’re obviously a very calm person. What’s your secret?
The rationale behind this line is many-fold.
First, a little flattery never goes amiss. Being called a calm person is a huge compliment these days. This will warm them towards you.
Second, the direct question both makes it very difficult for your victim to walk away without answering and flatters them further by suggesting they possess secret knowledge that would benefit the rest of humanity.
Third, because the belief system you are selling places calmness in a prominent position, you are suggesting your victim is perfectly suited to this system and in fact already fits into it like a pizza in a pizza box.
To summarise, you are flattering them, showing that they already belong, and asking a question that demands a response. This is a powerful line. Use it for good, never evil.
I’m kidding about that last part. Use it for evil if it convinces them to buy. You’re a salesperson, after all.
Even though I know it’s just a line, I can’t help but feel a little flattered when they feed it to me.
Yes, I’m very zen, just like this rock.
I breathe the eternal spirit and channel the peace of the universe through my… ahem. Well, actually, it was nice talking to you, but I’m afraid I’m late for a meeting. Have a great afternoon.
Am I the only one who gets stopped on the street by Ercs? Have you noticed any particular lines these people use?
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