Interacting with people is an integral part of our life. It may be for our routine day-to-day activities or outreach. The first step in interacting with a person is to understand him. We need to ascertain his needs, interests, concerns and expectations. Once we know this, we can present him Krishna consciousness in a way that they can appreciate it and adopt it.
Srila Rupa Goswami has provided us this beautiful insight in his Upadesamrta –
guhyam akhyati prcchati
bhunkte bhojayate caiva
sad vidham priti-lakshanam
Offering gifts in charity, accepting charitable gifts, revealing one’s mind in confidence, inquiring confidentially, accepting foodstuffs and offering foodstuffs are the six symptoms of love.
It is not humanly possible to always know specific needs, interests, concerns and expectations of every individual we interact with. Based on the purport of Srila Prabhupada, we can derive a heuristic that is handy in dealing with different types of people.
People in mode of ignorance are attracted to gross sensuality (SB 3.29.7 VCT Purport). They primarily value gross objects of sense gratification like food, music and fragrance. When we offer them prasad, kirtan and incense, they feel valued. They will also value us.
The members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness invite the Society’s members and supporters to dine with them when they hold love feasts in all their branches every Sunday. Many interested people come to honor prasäda, and whenever possible they invite members of the Society to their homes and feed them sumptuously with prasäda. In this way both the members of the Society and the general public are benefited [NOI 4 Purport]. Srila Prabhupada especially used this technique with Hippies and eventually turned them into Happies.
People in mode of passion are attracted to subtle pleasures of prestige, power and fame (SB 3.29.7 VCT Purport). They prominently value honor, position and power. When we offer them gifts and honor, they will value us. They will reciprocate through monetary contribution and help.
We are glad that people are donating very liberally to the development of the Society’s activities, and people are also eagerly accepting whatever humble contribution we are giving them in the shape of books and magazines dealing strictly with the subject matter of Kåñëa consciousness [NOI 4 Purport].
People in mode of goodness value knowledge and wisdom (BG 14.6). If they were given the opportunity for a discussion and they are heard, they feel valued. Srila Prabhupada expertly engaged with scientists and academicians in interesting discussions.
Now I want that we shall recruit more and more our men amongst the intelligent class of men. They, because they are little educated or they have got some wealth or fame or ability, so they will be sometimes little puffed-up, but that is all right, they deserve it. Now we shall have to learn the art how to approach such higher-class of men and attract them to apply themselves to this Krishna Consciousness process of self-realization. That requires much tact, and we shall have to expect to meet all challenges by sharp minds…..being always tolerant of others and appreciating their points-of-view, it will be easy matter for us to convince them gradually to join us [Letter to Balavanta, December 1972].
In this way, Srila Prabhupada taught us and demonstrated how to interact with different types of people. This works in every sphere of life.