How to Dodge the Zealous*

(*or “How to Handle It When Your Goals with Heart Conflict with Theirs”!)

I’m probably on shaky ground when I start an article by apologizing, but here it is: I apologize. I don’t mean to offend anyone who IS zealous with my suggestions below. You’re doing what you feel as though you’re called to do, and that’s terrific.

The world needs more zealous people.

Sometimes, though, zealous folks misdirect their efforts.

Whether it’s your bestie and his new networking marketing business, the religious folks coming to save you on a Saturday morning, or your coworker who’s sworn off carbs, sometimes we need help finding the right words to convince the person we’re talking with that we are not, in fact, interested.

We’re not misguided.

We don’t need more information.

We don’t want to spend an hour explaining why, either.

If you’re in the path of misdirected zealousness, here are a few tips on getting out of the situation.

1. You can continue to turn down the stereo or TV and command your entire family to be silent when you see the women in skirts and blouses coming up the walkway (and duck down so they can’t see you if they peer inside the windows!). Or you can tell them – those who dare to interrupt your Saturday morning coffee — that you are happy with your spirituality. Thank them for their time and wish them success elsewhere. When they leave – which they will, since you’ve left them no room to maneuver – at least be grateful that someone cares.

2. You can continue to evade your friend’s calls and ignore his emails about his latest networking marketing business. Or you can tell him that you’re very happy with what you do for work, and that it does not actually feel like work.

3. If the suggestion in 2 isn’t effective because you’re unhappy with your job and you’ve griped about it with him before, then say you appreciate what he’s doing, but you are already exploring other options that make you happy. Then, stop complaining and really find something you do enjoy! Life is too short to be unhappy 40+ hours a week (Yes, I’m a bit zealous about not getting stuck in an unhappy rut! ☺.).

4. Sidestepping the fitness zealot at the office? Whether it’s someone who just dropped ten pounds or a lifelong adherent to healthy eating, sometimes you just want your pasta and chocolate, and you don’t want to justify it. Or feel guilty about it. What to say when given unsolicited advice and a warning about your impending physical doom? Try “Thank you. I know you mean well, but I know that already, and I don’t want to act on it right now.”

The common theme for all the above is to say you’re happy with what you’re doing, you’re aware of your options, and you’ve chosen not to pursue them. You’re saying – nicely – that you know who you are and what you want, and as much as you appreciate the care and concern, you’re not going to change anything, at least not right now.

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People who believe strongly in something usually found that thing, whatever it is, helped them overcome a problem. They just want to share the love. If you let them know you’re already happy, you’ll go a long way toward diffusing their concern, as well as their arguments.

One caveat is this: If you find yourself shutting out everyone who offers up information that doesn’t coincide with your worldview, maybe you’re being too closed-minded. After all, if you don’t leave yourself open to learning, then you won’t grow and become a better person. Sometimes those who irritate us the most teach us the most.

Finally, are *you* the one who is zealous? What is your favorite cause? Do you try to stay aware of the response your message is getting, and do you let it go when someone doesn’t seem receptive? I’m too zealous about setting and keeping goals (and a host of other things, actually!). I’ve tried to learn to respond to the deafening silence on the other end of the phone and the glazed eyes, though, by changing the conversation.

Let me hear from you. How do you deal with people who are too zealous about their cause? What areas are *you* too zealous about?


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