Deidre, her husband and their three children lived at one end of town. Her parents lived about fifteen miles away in a village on the other side of town. Deidre was multi-level marketing a range of very effective nutritional products. Her mother had a variety of aches and pains including indigestion, insomnia, developing arthritis and occasional headaches. Deidre knew her products could help her mother, but her mother refused to take them.
Saturday morning, Deidre’s mother phoned her, “My arthritis is bad, could you pick me up and come with me to help me carry things while I shop?”
Deidre went. She also took the opportunity of explaining the product she had that could reduce her mother’s arthritic pain. Her mother declined it. This was an often-repeated scenario. The problem was always one of her mother’s health problems, and Deidre always felt she had a product that could solve the situation, but it was never accepted. Or sometimes her mother accepted the remedy, but later Deidre would see it in the kitchen, unopened.
A week later Deidre suggested that her mother come to her house and spend time the family, but it seemed mother’s headache was too bad, so Deidre drove all the way over and took the appropriate remedy with her.
Deidre was getting more and more frustrated. She was so sure of how well her nutritional supplements worked and she very much wanted to help her mother.
She came to see me, asking how I could help her to persuade her mother to take the products so that she would feel better and could do more with the family.
“The next time your mother phones with a problem, just tell her that you know she has the remedy in her kitchen because you have already given it to her. Advise her as to how to take it, and tell her you hope she feels better soon and then you can meet up for coffee.
“Oh, I couldn’t do that. It would seem so unkind!”
A few days later Deidre was back.
“Mother’s arthritis is getting really bad. How can I get her to take what I have given her?” My advice was similar. “Tell her which of the remedies you have left in her kitchen is the appropriate one, sympathise and say you are sorry not to be seeing her, but you look forward to when she feels up to joining you.”
“Oh, I couldn’t do that, it seems so heartless!”
By the next time Deidre called in to see me, I had enough of trying unsuccessfully to persuade Deidre to do something I was pretty certain would work. They say rats are smarter than humans. If you put a piece of cheese in the centre of a maze and the rat finds it, and you put another piece of cheese in later, and the rat finds it, and you then leave the maze empty, the rat will go twice more. By then it will have learnt that there is no point in going to the centre; it has stopped being a place where it can get cheese. Human’s take longer to learn. They are more prone to butting their head against a brick wall, even if it hurts. This scenario between Deidre and myself had been repeated several times before I decided not to be a rat.
The next time Deidre called me asking for help I immediately changed the conversion to something else. I carried on with my chatter until Deidre said, “But I really do want to help my mother, surely you can help me do that? Or don’t you want to?”
To this, I pointed out that I had already advised her how to do that but she had decided not to follow my advice. And I moved the conversation on to something else.
It seems Deidre got the message.
The next time she phoned her mother to invite her for Sunday lunch with the family and her mother complained of poor health and asked her daughter for help, Deidre said…..
“Oh, what a shame. I’m really sorry you’re not feeling well Mum, what a pity you can’t join us for lunch. But do take the supplement that I think will help, and I hope you feel well enough on Wednesday, so we can go shopping.” And Deidre put the phone down.
Deidre told me she felt really awful doing that. “What happened?” I asked.
“Well, the funny thing was, after a few occasions like that Mother finally asked for my help with her health. She started taking the supplements and felt a whole lot better. I just can’t help wondering why she hadn’t done that sooner.”
“Secondary gains,” I replied.
“What do you mean?”
“While you were ministering to your mother’s calls for help and making frequent visits across town to help her, she didn’t want to get better. Once she found she was losing out on occasions due to poor health it was no longer to her benefit to have the problems. By taking the products her health improved and she could spend more, rather than less time with you.”
Deidre gave that some thought and then stared at me. “That is what you were doing, isn’t it? When I kept asking you for help but not taking your advice you stopped advising me but went on being friendly. That was what caused me to act on your advice. I realised I no longer needed to need your advice to have a reason to call in and spend time with you!”