“Agitate! Agitate! Ought to be the motto of every reformer. Agitation is the opposite of stagnation – the one is life, the other death.” – Ernestine Rose, Born Jan. 13, 1810.
One of the best tricks I know for starting a “push” conversation in the mind of a stranger is to acknowledge their frustrations, and validate their excuses for enduring them.
Stagnation is one of the universal feelings people have around their proud, personal pile of problems. They feel stuck in a quagmire. They fear that if they flail, they will only sink deeper and so they sit still in it, and use complaint as their only attempt to resist.
The thing is, this is actually a pretty okay coping mechanism for the difficulties of life. Standing still is not so bad as long as you lower your standards, suppress your desires for better and bigger things, and settle for the sad state of your sucky surroundings.
I mean, you won't DIE from unhappiness and dissatisfaction. For some people, believe it or not, clinging to this little chunk of unpleasantness FEELS like survival because it's the only solid ground they know, surrounded by a vast, dark ocean of uncertainty.
Your job is to get them to WANT to move, to extend their hand for help, and to get them to lift that first foot to attempt the climb out for themselves. And of course, sell them on something that can help them complete their escape.
And the key to doing this is AGITATION. I've even done a bit of it above – can you see how I've used specific words and metaphors to paint stagnation as undesirable, miserable, painful?
And I wasn't even trying hard. You can take it further.
Give them a villain to blame for their sunken state. Show them how that villain thrives and revels in their sorry status. Spark in them a rebellion against this vile oppressor.
Show them the hidden staircase that allows them to easily rise from the muck, and tell them of the golden land of plenty just beyond the swampy borders they've lived in so long.
Give them observations to be bothered by, and ideas to be haunted by, so that sitting still in their pitiful puddle is no longer tolerable because every spare and empty second is now filled with a feeling of discontent, and a dream of a better way to be.
And when you do “save” them by simply convincing them to take a step toward you, you are their hero and salvation, forevermore.
So be sure to get a testimonial out of them before you move along to the next one.