By Yonatan Gordon
We decided to try something a little different for this article. Part of the fun of discussing things from a Kabbalistic viewpoint, is taking what you read and seeing how it relates to Kabbalah. For this entry we chose the book “The Language of Trust: Selling Ideas in a World of Skeptics” by Michael Maslansky with Scott West, Gary Demoss, and David Saylor.
We used the term “book report” because, rather than a full-length book review, our topic will center around pages 128 and 129. These are the two pages where the authors present their “new word order” for consumer engagement. They call it the “new word order” to emphasize that the first word in the three-stage model (engagement) must always come first.
NEW WORD ENGAGEMENT
The main idea behind the book (as evidenced in the subtitle) is that convincing people is a hard thing. The fact that you are reading this far into my article suggests a certain degree of connectedness to the topic. Otherwise, there is no shortage of other articles to read out there. Perhaps the greatest challenge for someone involved in marketing today is grabbing, and keeping the public’s attention.
What is this “new word order” engagement model? They call the three stages “Engagement, Theirs Before Yours, and Context.” To quote:
Engagement: “The most important first step in every selling conversation is engagement. The first step is to find a way to engage someone who has little desire to hear what you have to say. This means finding a common area of agreement.”
Theirs Before Yours: “The next step is to give [the person] a reason to believe that you are going to do something other than simply argue your position … it is where you acknowledge their concerns right up front.”
Context: “This is where you pivot the conversation to your solution, your product, or your idea. But you can only make this shift once you’ve really gotten the listener engaged…”
Now that we’ve presented this model from the world of business and consumer affairs, let’s venture back to our home territory. In Kabbalah these three stages are called Unifications (Engagement), Clarifications (Theirs Before Yours) and Rectifications (Context).
In Kabbalah, the clearest way to understand Engagement is as a function of the sefirah of Knowledge (דעת). The classic example for this is a matchmaker that spends their days making unifications (matches or couples) between men and women. While each suggested man and woman pair will have questions, the first task of the matchmaker is to sense that they have the potential to become happily married to begin with.
In addition to Knowledge, דעת can also be translated as “consciousness” or “perception.” It is also termed “the key that opens up the six chambers of the heart” (i.e. the six emotive attributes). While matchmakers need to have a strong sense of Knowledge, their suggestions also need to inspire excitement in their single male and female clients. This inspired state needs to be consciously felt and perceived for it to be lasting.
The work of Clarification is sifting or sorting one thing from another. The act of taking “bad from good” is actually one of the forbidden activities (מלאכות) that a Jew is not allowed to perform on the Shabbat. It is then fitting that the authors use the terminology “theirs before yours.” By presenting the competition first, presumably the salesperson is trying to take or sort them out of the pile. The result would then leave your “good” product as the only viable alternative.
Clarification comes from the sefirah of Wisdom (חכמה). It takes a wise salesperson to be able to present the competition, yet convince you that they are the “bad” and you are the “good.” In the terminology of the laws of Shabbat, this is called taking the “refuse” from out of the “food.”
The wise salesperson can explain rationally how the competition is simply not edible. For the matchmaker, this means knowing how to answer the questions (and objections) that come after the initial decision to go forward with the match has been made.
Finally we come to the outcome of the engagement process, rooted in the mother principle of Understanding (בינה). This stage signifies our personal and collective hope that the result of the engagement experience will be positive. For a couple that decides to marry, this is most evident. But on a universal scale, there is a well known Jewish principle called World Rectification (Tikkun Olam). If the salesperson is to convince anyone of anything, they must be able to connect to the end vision, or underlying concept, behind what they are selling.
This is what the authors of the book call bringing the discussion back into “context.” Instead of the term “context,” Kabbalah relates to this stage as a process of “enclothements.” Clarifications are first made in Wisdom (חכמה), then they are enclothed in Understanding (בינה).
In order to achieve positive results, the efforts of the matchmaker or salesperson need to be perceived as something practical. This is what is termed in Kabbalah as integrating the light within the vessel. As long as the light surrounds the vessel, then the former has not been enclothed in the latter. While the enclothement stage paints a picture of a more rectified world, unless it seems practical, the recipient will have little justification to listen.
This then explains why there seems to be so many skeptics today. Instead of saying that people have grown more pessimistic over time, it seems more accurate to say (as mentioned in the book) that communication has become more superficial. When there is a great deal of light, but little substance, then the ability for communication to positively change the world is diminished. This state is called the World of Chaos where the lights are great, but the vessels are tiny. The World of Rectification is typified by large vessels with a lesser degree of light.
The balance is reached when compelling messages are presented truthfully and earnestly. When even the wildest claims are shown to be plausible, then the homeostasis between lights and vessels has occurred.