The best offense is a good offense – or not. Netzach Parts IV and V

Most of us have probably been on the receiving end of a sales pitch that went too far, that was too pushy. We were ambivalent because the seller just seemed too eager.

But what was the salesman to do?
Too eager and you creep out the prospect.
Not eager enough and if you don’t get the sale, you kick yourself for not being strong enough.

This is the dance that the trait of Netzach has to figure out. It does not lend itself to easy bite-sized solutions. I should say that I have not yet discovered any bite-sized solutions to this issue.

Here are some conclusions I’ve reached over the years.
You push and you push, until the pushee feels like he has no room to breathe, to exist. The push has to have the prospect maintain a sense of self. This varies by individual. With some over-sensitive people, the easily offended among us, you tell them their shoe is untied and they snap back, “Don’t tell me what to do!”

I can think of a time I was itching to tell a person that she was doing things and saying things and behaving in ways that were ruining her life and her husband’s life. But she made it clear that previous rabbis and therapists had been hurtful to her. This means they pointed out her faults. So I said nothing for several months. And when I felt I couldn’t hold it in any longer, I met with her and her husband, and found the words to convey that her husband was not 100% at fault for their difficulties, and that she shared some of the responsibility as well. And that was the last time she ever spoke to me. I was added to the list of people who hurt her. I accept the likelihood that my words might have been too pointed. I really was aiming for “as un-blunt as possible”. But maybe it was just too blunt.

That experience taught me the wisdom of a tactic that had frustrated me for years. I had always heard of this line that therapists use, at least in fictional depictions of them. The line is “And how did that make you feel?” I would think, “Enough with asking how they feel. If you’re smart, and you’ve gone through years of education, you know what their problems are. Just tell them already, and tell them how to fix the problems.” Then I met this couple. This was an extreme example, but it woke me up to the concept that some people “can’t handle the truth.”

I attended a presentation of a noted psychologist years later. She described something called “Borderline Personality Disorder.” I had heard the term “Borderline” before, but never with any specific meaning. It had been used as a generic form of insult, a fancier way of saying “She crazy” was “She is borderline”, which I thought meant on the border between sanity and insanity. But this expert started to describe what Borderline Personality Disorder was, and I found myself checking off a mental list of every element of this woman’s personality I had ever observed.

One doesn’t have to have BPD to be resistant to hearing negative things about themselves. It’s quite a common feature of the human personality. So while the desire to do something, to say something, is there, the wisdom involved might be too high for regular people to venture.

Here is where the Hod comes in; the quality of allowing for the other side to expand.

True story:

A woman had not spoken with her family for over a year. Her father reluctantly confided to me how crushed he felt at this situation.

I called the woman and told her of her father’s sorrow. She gave me the background of the situation. It turned out she was right (IMO) to limit contact. Her father had said things that harmed her own family’s stability and she felt she had to protect her family. I told her, “Wow. You’re right. You’re totally right.” I then commiserated a little more and ended the phone call.

I found out a few months later that she resumed a relationship with her parents. My call had given her the strength to consider reopening a channel. Fortified with the sense of her own … right-ness, she re-examined the total picture and concluded that the break had already succeeded in communicating to her parents what the boundaries were. She tested the waters, invited her parents for dinner and the rest is good history. This didn’t happen because I told her she was wrong to cut off contact. It happened because I told her she was right.


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