When you come upon something "good", something that works really well, it is natural to want to share it. How do you share without evangelizing?
To evangelize is "to preach the gospel; to convert to Christianity" according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. The Free Dictionary adds "to promulgate or promote (a doctrine or idea, for example) enthusiastically." Microsoft employs evangelists to promote
its products and services. Firms cultivate customers who believe in their products so strongly that they try to get others to buy them.
Adherents to religions, spiritual practices, methodologies and ideas attempt to convince others (and maybe themselves).
Clearly, there is a place for evangelism. At best, the evangelist must be mindfully aware of his/her motivation, clarity and the effect he or she may have on others. Is he or she coming from a desire to serve or from a need to reinforce his or her own beliefs or for the purpose of making a profit? How far will the evangelist go to convert the non-believer? How does the other party feel about being the target of evangelism? Even the motivation to serve can be distorted. It can easily slip into proselytizing to convert people to the "one perfect way" or to selling a bill of goods for one's own benefit. The Inquisitors believed they were spreading the word of God and helping to save souls as they tortured bodies.
A colleague shared with me that his wife is suffering from a debilitating chronic disease. Some years ago, I might have launched into a discussion of how mindfulness could help both he and his wife. I have since learned that it is usually best to wait until someone asks. I did ask how they were handling the strain. That triggered his question about how mindfulness practice could help.
I said that mindfulness meditation can be a great tool that by itself offers perspective and relief from pain, though it is not a cure-all. It works best when coupled with an attitude of acceptance and letting go. I asked if he wanted to hear more about that. When he said he did, I shared with him the idea that by accepting and letting go, happiness can be found even in the face of conditions like chronic pain and illness.
In the case of chronic illness, that means letting go of the attachment to a healthy and active, happy future. Clearly, that kind of letting go is beyond difficult.
I let him know that I was available if he wanted to learn to meditate and discuss further and cautioned him to avoid trying to impose anything on his wife.
To Teach and Share
Teaching and sharing, as well as evangelizing, are motivated by a desire to help. It requires that the recipient of what you want to share is receptive and that you are candid about pros and cons.
I was disturbed by the evangelist label because I believe that as a teacher, speaker, director, coach and friend, it is my job to present facts, concepts, my experience, and techniques and leave it up to the other party to do with them what they will. The Buddha taught his followers not to take his teaching as truth out of respect for him but, instead, to test the teaching and see if it works. The Buddha was a teacher, basing his teaching on his own personal experience. He was not an evangelist.
Whether you teach and speak about the power of mindfulness or the best way to do just about anything, know your motivation. Is it to promote happiness and optimal performance? Keep in mind the attitudes, beliefs and responses of the people you are addressing. Remember, the measure of effective sharing is the degree to which what was shared makes a difference when it is applied.
It is important to be enthusiastic about your subject, but realize that the content and its application are what will make the difference - not the power of rhetoric. Though without the rhetoric, the enthusiasm, the audience may miss he message and not have the opportunity to learn and apply what they have learned.
Share your wisdom based on personal experience, not blind faith or untested intellectual knowledge. Be an example of what you are teaching; let your performance and demeanor elicit interest from others so they ask you how you have become so calm and effective.
Until the other party is receptive, there is no sense going on about how great your good thing is. In the classroom or lecture hall it is relatively easy. The attendees have chosen to be there. They want information about the subject. When you are dealing with colleagues, friends and family, it is more difficult assess receptivity by reading the cues in body language and the felt sense of the other person's attitude. Ask questions rather than making assertions and promises.
Be aware that there are many ways to achieve an end. Your way might be really great, but so might some alternative. Leave it up to the recipient to explore and decide based on his or her situation.