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Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin
March 15, 2002 Issue

Schmoozing motivates, orders do not

The soft touch way of convincing people to do something is effective

By Tom Rinkoski

photo of Tom Rinkoski
Tom Rinkoski

Schmooze. (Schmooz) Slang from the Yiddish shmuesn. Verb: 1. to converse casually, especially in order to gain advantage or make a social connection. 2. The ability to successfully motivate others into action. 3. Catholic evangelization.

Helping disciples understand your motivations, motivating children to do chores, and motivating employees to go the extra mile, all may feel like making the dead rise. How does Oprah motivate so many people to read so many books? How did Sesame Street motivate my daughter to read so early? Why couldn't I motivate my son to practice his cello more often?

The people we recognize as great schmoozers are motivators. John Gray, best selling author and public speaker has prompted many married couples to enrich and enliven their marriage. Leo Buscaglia has inspired my mother to buy his books for me! The taste of my mother's roasted peppers continues to propel me to discover the right blend of garlic and other seasonings!

One of the biggest parts of parenting is motivating. When parents approach this task as a sales call, trying to close the deal, and not as schmoozing, they are doomed from the start. Motivating is not the same as teaching, though the best teachers motivate learning.

Consider what motivates you to do this or that. Consider the case of Marion Donovan, a housewife in 1950 who was motivated to invent the disposable diaper after hours of washing and bleaching cloth diapers. She invested hours cutting up her old shower curtains into plastic envelopes to create what she called the "Boater." You can bet she was motivated!

What is it that will swing you into action? One of my teachers, Fr. John Shea, told me that God is the presence that provokes. What provoked Earl Tupper to come up with Tupperware? Who do you know that is a motivated Catholic? Not just in words, but deeds. Motivate. Inspire. Instigate. Influence.

Fear is not a motivating force. In the 1950s, just after Marion invented the disposable diaper, I remember hiding under my school desk, because my teacher said that is what I was supposed to do in case of a nuclear attack. I was just following Sr. Genevieve's orders and, frankly, was plenty scared. Following orders, or being scared into action does not qualify for being motivated any more than hiding under desks saves you from a nuclear attack. Motivate. Excite. Stimulate. Spur.

Our job as Catholics is to be motivators in what we do and say to make a better way of life. Being Christian has never been about having a Baptismal certificate. Motivating people to being Christians in action and not just in words is tough. In fact, someone did rise from the dead to make it happen. I travel the 16 counties of the diocese in my Ford Contour and give talks to people on motivating volunteers. First I find I have to motivate them to be motivating. I schmooze so you can schmooze too! It is a circle of schmooze.

Enthusiasm motivates me more than conviction. Conviction too easily builds buildings from cold hard logic and rationalization. The root of the word "enthusiasm" even means 'caught up' in God. My heart swells when I bask in the radiating energy beaming from enthusiastic people's faces. Maybe that's why I enjoy working with young engaged couples, in whom I can see and feel love's enthusiasm.

I will never forget the change that came over my son Tom when he became enthused about going to Tanzania. His energy rearranged the furniture in our family life. He made things happen so that trip could become a reality. Still today, his face lights up when he tells the stories. The church desperately needs that kind of energy. Robin Williams said, "You are only given a little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it." I add, put it in the service of God and others. Schmooze.

This week, don't wait for the Sign of Peace at church. Reach out and touch someone during the week. The world could use the extra touch of peace. Think of one thing that you would like to talk with someone about: maybe it is a hobby, or a book you just read, or a movie you saw. What turns you on? Go talk to five people about it. Make at least one or two of them your family members. Listen to what turns them on. Ask them, and really listen.

It is OK to be a little scared. The disciples were scared. Mary was disappointed. Martha was sad. But Lazarus, he was awakened!

(Rinkoski is the Green Bay Diocese's Family Life director.)

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