Buyers Are Liars

August 9, 2012 Leave a comment

“Ninety per cent of the world’s woe comes from people not knowing themselves, their abilities, their frailties, and even their real virtues. Most of us go almost all the way through life as complete strangers to ourselves – so how can we know anyone else?”

– Sydney J. Harris

Recently I was in a conversation with an acquaintance who is a real estate agent.  We started bantering about houses and communities that would fit our values and lifestyle/family goals.  At a certain point, she said, “You know, we can dream all we want, but as we like to say in real estate, ‘buyers are liars.'”  In response to my baffled look, she added, “Most people think they know what they want, but I find you really have to take people out into the field, ask a lot of questions, show them a bunch of options, and see how they respond.”  Turns out people often end up in a somewhat or completely different place from their originally stated aspirations.

Upon further reflection, I find this notion of buyers being liars to be a broader truth for many people who say that we know what we want, who we are, what we value, but in fact are not really as in touch with these as we think.  Indeed, there are studies that suggest many, if not most, of us are strangers to ourselves.  With the layers of external messages coming at us (marketing, expert advice) and the divisions between our conscious and sub-conscious minds,  it takes some attentional fortitude, exploration and experimentation to get at the truth!  This does not simply come through introspection, but active engagement with the world and dialogue with others.

I am more and more compelled by my friend Carol Sanford’s notion that those of us who strive to be “helpers” are most of service when we see ourselves as “re-sources,” agents of helping others re-connect and return to themselves more fully and deeply.  Our tools for this are not “best practices” and expert advice, as Carol notes, but observation, inquiry and developmentally-oriented questions, and care-full listening.  These are what help to create more space for discovery.  Our gain is very much mutual.

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