Before a prescription can inspire action, the diagnosis must inspire conviction
When we are in a position of guiding others, we sometimes find that people don’t listen to us. If our inputs are repeatedly neglected or rejected, we may naturally get exasperated, irritated, infuriated: “Why don’t they listen to me?”
To understand why, here’s an example. Suppose we go to a doctor, who gives us a prescription hastily without duly hearing our symptoms. If we aren’t convinced about that doctor’s diagnosis, we will naturally be reluctant to take their prescription.
We often unwittingly take on the position of that hasty doctor. When others do something wrong, we may clearly see why and how it needs to be fixed. But they may not even recognize that they are doing anything wrong, leave alone accept that what we are recommending is the way to fix it. We need to first explain our perspective intelligibly and persuasively. Then our prescription is likely to be taken more seriously.
In the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna shows by example how to inspire conviction before seeking action. Though he is God himself, he doesn’t draw on his divine position to impose his will on Arjuna. Instead, he speaks the Gita which is essentially a carefully reasoned thread of thought that enables Arjuna to see clearly the consequences of the choices before him. Throughout the Gita, Krishna patiently and persuasively answers Arjuna’s various questions. And he concludes the Gita by checking whether his message has been heard and understood (18.72). The implication of Krishna’s question, Gita commentators explain, is that he is ready to repeat his message, partly or even wholly, if it is not clear. Arjuna, being convinced by Krishna’s message, naturally agrees to do Krishna’s will (18.73).
Learning from Krishna’s example, we too can precede prescription with persuasion, thereby increasing the chances of inspiring transformation in others.
Think it over:
- When people don’t listen to us, what may be the reason?
- How does Krishna inspire conviction before seeking action?
- In your interactions with others, what can you do to precede prescription with persuasion?
18.72 O son of Prutha, O conqueror of wealth, have you heard this with an attentive mind? And are your ignorance and illusions now dispelled?
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