Years ago, I was listening to a radio interview with a particularly successful person. Most people I know would classify him as successful in about every possible definition of the word.
During the interview he made a statement I found intriguing.
Speaking of his children, he offered this insight:
If I could pick one skill I’d like my kids to master, it would be sales.
He explained further:
Think about it, all of life is sales. Even if we’re not selling a product or service, we’re constantly selling our opinions, ourselves, our worldview, or even what movie we should go see on a Friday night. All of life is sales and knowing how to sell an idea to another person is among the most helpful skills anybody can possess.
He’s right, I think, about the reality that much of life is sales—not necessarily selling physical products, but hoping to convince others about our worldview, our political opinion, our religious faith, or even our picture of a perfect weekend with the family.
For that reason, I was drawn by a headline this past week to read an article in the Harvard Business Review, “How to Improve Your Sales Skills, Even If You’re Not a Salesperson.”
It’s a helpful article and it offers valuable advice. I invite you to read it or skim it briefly. because I’d like to adapt its findings to a question I am asked more than any other, “How do I get my reluctant partner onboard with minimalism?”
How do we convince a reluctant spouse or partner to adopt a minimalist lifestyle?
Or, better stated, how can we “sell the idea of minimalism?”
The articles offers helpful ideas for being a better salesperson and the points can be appropriately applied to our question.
How to “Sell Minimalism” to a Reluctant Spouse or Partner:
1. Reflect on Your Past Positive Experiences.
You catch more flies with honey than vinegar, as the old saying goes. The proverb has stood the test of time because it is true. You are not going to draw a reluctant spouse or partner toward minimalism by focusing on the negatives or having the conversation while frustrated.
Instead, reflect on your own positive experience with minimalism. Keep optimism and invitation as the foundation for your conversation. Don’t list the negatives of their current actions, lay out the positives of owning less.
2. Put Yourself in Your Counterpart’s Shoes.
It’s your job to figure out your spouse’s or partner’s motivations. Consider the conversation from their point of view and brainstorm what benefits would draw them to minimalism. The reason you were drawn to owning less may be different than the reason that would draw them.
They may not feel the weight of cleaning or organizing, but may be drawn to the idea of saving money, working less, or traveling more. Find what benefit would move the needle in their life.
3. Plan and Practice.
It is smart to engage in this conversation with your spouse or partner at an appropriate time. Don’t shake your fist in a moment of frustration or rage and consider that your opportunity to invite him or her into minimalism. Too many of our conversations about clutter happen when we are already on edge about physical possessions.
Instead, go out for coffee or dinner. Engage in a heartfelt conversation about the direction of your lives and what you are hoping to change. Think through how you are going to introduce the conversation and practice articulating the benefits that will resonate with them.
4. Stay Calm and Don’t Brag.
Humility and selflessness are essential in healthy relationships. They should be part of this conversation as well.
Be careful to not approach the minimalism conversation with pride and arrogance. Remember, almost certainly there are a few things your spouse or partner would like to change about you. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume they may surface during this conversation. Don’t get defensive. In fact, your own weaknesses might be used to your advantage if you look for compromise together.
5. Close the Deal.
This is important and too often overlooked in sales. End your sales pitch by looking for opportunities to specifically close the deal. Sometimes “closing the deal” means asking your spouse or partner if they are willing to make real change at home.
But sometimes, “closing the deal” means something else—especially if they are clearly not ready to jump in with both feet. “Closing the deal” may be simply asking, “Is this a conversation you’d be willing to engage in with me in the future?” Or maybe it’s brainstorming ways to work together in the near future or finding an easier first step that he or she is comfortable taking.
6. Think Long Term.
According to the Harvard Business Review article above, “Veteran salespeople know it’s possible that you’re going to fail more than you will succeed. You have to have the guts to move forward.” It is possible your spouse or partner may not be willing right now to accept minimalism as a lifestyle. That’s too bad, but okay.
Keep leading by example and looking for opportunities in the future to approach the conversation again. Sometimes life change takes longer than we desire. Show patience, keep love at the center of your relationship, and think long-term. In the end, the benefits of minimalism always win out… sometimes it just takes a little longer than we hope.