How To Deal With People Who Sell Ideas And Beliefs

Most of us think of salespeople as slick-haired, oily, shysters.  The kind that walk up to you at a dealership and say, “What can I do to get you in that car today?”

But we don’t realize that salespeople aren’t just oily.  They’re everywhere we look, and often we don’t realize that they’re salespeople. 

A job applicant is a salesperson.  He has to present himself as somehow better, more interesting, more desirable, than the other job applicants.

A blogger is a salesperson.  He crafts his work to attract you to his blog, to click his titles and follow his Facebook page.

And then there are the other salespeople: the ideological salespeople.  The people that believe so deeply in something that they will sacrifice their lives to “sell” you their ideology.

These are the people you can trust the least.  Because they will do anything to get you.  Anything to snatch you and turn you into little clones of them.

Most of us think of the silly people on the side of the street who scream at passersby about eternal damnation.  Just like the used car salespeople, they are the obvious examples in our minds, the traditional ones mocked by all of us.

But we don’t realize sometimes that the ideological salespeople are everywhere.  An activist is simply a salesperson who has banded together with other salespeople.  Politicians.  Anyone who tries convincing another person of his political or religious views, really.  Priests.  Rabbis.  Imams.  Vocal atheists.

These are the ideological salespeople of the world.  Ironically, while most of us have very negative views of salespeople, we tend to look at many of the ideological salespeople of the world as “idealistic” and “world-changers”.

But what’s the difference, really?  On a personal level, what’s different?  Like the care salesperson, he is interested in “turning” you… he will do whatever he can to convince you to buy his or her ideological product.

You can’t trust such people.

But what is this, a religious Jew who says you cannot trust rabbis?  A heretic, perhaps?  I don’t think so.

We cannot lose our agency as people.  We cannot lose track of the fact that the journey of life, whether it be buying a car or acquiring a spiritual way of life, is our’s and G-d’s.  Our choices in life must be ours.

Does that mean that a salesperson is a bad person?  No.

Does that mean we should never buy what the salesperson is selling?  No.

We do what all intelligent people do now when a salesperson tells them something is the “best” and we must buy now.  We do our research.  We study, we learn.  We work in our own time.  We realize that perhaps the car he’s selling me is good, but I need one with less mileage.  That the politics he’s selling me is true, but I don’t agree on every position.  That the religion he is selling me is pure and holy, but I don’t have to buy into his particular doctrine to access the G-d of his religion.

They always say the best salespeople truly believe that the product they’re selling is the best product.  They don’t try to trick.  They try to show you why you, the audience that they see as fitting their product, would be better off paying a bit to make your life better.  Despite our view of salespeople, it is the ones that respect us the most that tend to do the best, not the ones that are constantly pulling tricks out of their sleaves.

And that is why we must be careful with who we choose to go into business with, even if what they’re selling is worth buying.

Since becoming religious, I’ve seen both kind of ideological salespeople.  The good and the bad.  The shysters and the noble-hearted.  The ones who will pull any trick they can to get you on their team, because they have reduced their sales into simple numbers, forgetting that ideology and beliefs have never-ending return policies.  And the ones who respect their targets, and would rather lose a sale than betray a person’s agency.

But at the end of the day, we cannot fully trust even the most trustworthy.  We cannot fully buy into anyone’s sale.  Because, at the end of the day, the decision about what to buy, how to buy it, when to buy it, who to buy it from… these decisions are all personal, subjective within the objective.  Decisions that must be our own.  Decisions that must come from deep within.

Because when we make those deeply personal decision in a deeply personal way, when we tap so deep that we ignore all the salespeople, and focus on the truth outside that is guiding us to the truth inside… when we do all that, we’re not just tapping into ourselves.

We’re tapping into G-d.  Into G-d’s eternal vision for our life.  A vision that is objective because it is subjective.  Because G-d is so eternal, so vast, so immeasurable, that your personal truth can fit into an external paradigm while still being your own. And it can coexist peacefully with everyone else’s truths both in and out of your paradigm.

All because you were a smart shopper.  All because you did your research.  All because you trusted yourself and G-d above all.





15 responses to “How To Deal With People Who Sell Ideas And Beliefs”

  1. Yonah Heidings Avatar
    Yonah Heidings

    Been thinking about this a lot lately- how baalei teshuva get “sold” a bill of goods and years later, wake up and say…whoa, what did I do? It’s not buyer’s regret, more like, did I do enough research and make a truly informed decision? If I did all that research, would I have made the same decision? Who knows- gam zu letoivah! But lots to think about

  2. COJ Avatar

    Like my friend says: the kiruv people must disclose about 4 topics to their perspective clients:

    Taharat Mishpacha
    AND Dayschool Tuition!

  3. Discern411 Avatar

    I wonder if a vision in alignment with G-d’s is subjective? That there is a personal truth vs a collective truth? What about absolute truth? I find this excruciatingly painful to wrap my head around it. I feel as though these are platitudes sold to us that there are Shiviim Panim Latorah but in reality there is not much tolerance for this. Case in point:

    1. Bentzy Avatar

      Yup. Good question/point.

  4. Tzvi Kilov Avatar
    Tzvi Kilov

    Salesman implies there is payment in return, either of money as you said or the satisfaction of “turning” someone. Are there no people who are gift givers, who place their beliefs out there for others only because they appreciate others?

    1. Elad Nehorai Avatar

      We call those people artists.

  5. Malka Hellinger Forshner Avatar
    Malka Hellinger Forshner

    Well, some people shop and shop and shop, and never buy anything, because they can’t make up their mind…….or they get tired and frazzled and end up buying the wrong thing…….I’m very grateful I “bought” what the Chabad salesmen/women were trying to sell me, and it’s now a long, but basically joyful process, from “inside” of making it my own

    1. Elad Nehorai Avatar

      Baruch Hashem! As I said, this isn’t about not buying, but about being a smart buyer.

  6. linmalki Avatar

    There is a difference between “buying” something and “learning” something. We learn about life and God both from people who are intentionally “selling” something, and those who are simply living life as it happens. The ones who come over like salespeople are often those who have developed their product by formula without much connection to their own real life. The story I feel called to tell is my own story, things I have been shown, things I have learned (often the hard way), and what God has done in my own life. I have the obligation to make sure that it is as true as possible, that it aligns with everything I know about God. I’ve been looking at Moses lately–he started out by telling the people Who God Is, and then what God wanted them to do. This is where we have t start: God is bigger and smarter than we are, more than we can ever imagine.

  7. Rebecca K. Avatar
    Rebecca K.

    I like what you say about doing the research. But a lot of people don’t do the research. They just slide into each stage of life. It reminds me of something (forgive me for going all Litvish on you) Rav Noach Weinberg said, borrowing from Rav Dessler: life is full of choices. The first thing you’ve got to do is recognize you have a choice. Only the person who recognizes that they have a choice, and is motivated to make one, will even realize they CAN do research.

    1. Elad Nehorai Avatar

      Agreed, this is an article about choice, not about objective truth.

  8. Salvador Litvak Avatar

    The best form of ideological selling is modeling the behavior. Thanks for another solid piece, Elad!

    1. Elad Nehorai Avatar

      Thanks for reading!

  9. Jeffrey Dowling Avatar

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