Any Topic: Except Two

| October 31, 2017 | 0 Comments

If we consider self reliance training to be a product, the cost and difficulty of acquiring and keeping “customers” is very high. In order to retain people in our community, we should be as welcoming as possible. I encourage you to be friendly and outgoing to everyone — but avoid discussing two topics at class: religion and politics.

Expanding the self reliant community is one of my favorite things. However, this is a difficult process with many points of failure. If someone makes it through all the “gates” to make it to a class, there are a lot of things that get in the way from them going to a second class.

Some of these things we can’t influence as students: the quality of the class, if the student likes the instructor, the finances necessary to take more classes, the social / relationship pressures that keep people from training, competing interests, etc.

The one thing we can influence is the social setting. I believe that being welcoming to all students — especially newcomers —  encourages repeat attendance.

I travelled a lot with my father when I was younger. We owned a goat ranch, and I’d ride with him to buy, sell, and show animals. I learned a lot on those trips, but one of the most important things Dad ever told me was:

You have at least one thing in common with everyone. A key to getting along with them is finding it.

So! If our goal is to get more people into the self reliance community, and welcoming people at class is a strategy to do so, then our tactic is to talk with them to  find one thing in common.

Seems simple, right? Unfortunately, I’ve watched many, many people step on conversational landmines. People who may be hesitant about going to class may be negatively affected by topics that confirm any preconceptions or fears they have about going to class. I have a diverse peer group, and some of them are types of people that get labeled as “libtards,” “snowflakes,” or a bunch of other derogatory terms related to their racial identity, gender, sexual orientation, etc.

There is a lot of effort to expand the defense community beyond the “traditional.”

Let’s play it safe by avoiding two high level topics: religion and politics.

Religion is pretty straightforward. What one believes in spiritually can influence someone’s perception of you at best, and can be a divisive topic at worst. This is not to say that you should hide what you do or don’t believe in, I’m just suggesting that it isn’t something you should discuss while around tentative newcomers.

To some, “politics” might mean anything related to the mechanisms of government: political figures, elections, party platforms, etc. I suggest you broaden this to include political topics. This might include welfare, race relations, gender topics, abortion, taxation as theft, policing, if Krav Maga is hokum or not, or Hobby Lobby is a source of good or evil.

These are all topics I heard discussed at classes that sparked disagreement or outright arguments in class.

These are not topics that you should avoid discussing at all costs, especially if they are important to you. Just try to prioritize getting to know someone first before seeing how they feel about a hot button issue. It is also the job of the instructor to avoid these issues, but we can’t control them — just how we conduct ourselves.

I made many, many, of my current friends through training. After exploring one “safer” topic after another we’ve revealed some contentious and sensitive things about ourselves. The difference is that by the time talking about religion or political issues happens, we are far, far away from “new student” territory and in the “I might take a bullet for you” territory.

When you’ve followed my dad’s advice and found a ton of things you have in common, that one big thing you DON’T have in common may not make or break your relationship.

However, if the first thing someone says to you is something you passionately disagree with, what are your chances of wanting to stick around to find out what Aliens movie is their favorite? Although now that I think about that, that topic may be a hot button for some 😉

My suggestion: start with the easy stuff. Be cool. Be nice. There are plenty of ways to find something in common with a new student. Hopefully your company will be a contributing factor for why they return for a second class.

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About the Author:

Short Barrel Shepherd

Short Barrel Shepherd is a regular guy and works to make Web sites and mobile apps easier for people to use. He spends his free time attending fight-focused firearm, knife, and combatives training, motorcycling, writing, and playing games. His daily carry is a Glock 19 pistol and an AR15 .300 Blackout pistol in a backpack.

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