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Friday, June 10, 2011

How to Talk to a Scientologist

I don't have the conceit that I'm an expert in this subject, but I think I can offer some advice and possibly point to other sources for more information.

This is an important subject.  If a family member or friend has become a Scientologist, you can still talk to them, you can help, but you need to be careful.

You need to educate yourself on what is going on with the Scientologist. There are a number of good people with insight and great advice:
The most important thing for you to know about Scientologists is that Hubbard has installed a minefield around them to “protect” them from outside influences. You need to avoid this minefield if you want to help them.

So the very first rule is: Do not say anything that will cause the Scientologist to disconnect from you. This means you should not say anything critical or negative about Scientology at this stage.  This is one of the mines. If you have already moved in that direction you need to stop.

The reason for this is that you can't do them any good if you can't talk to them. That's why Scientology enforces disconnection so vigorously.

That doesn't mean you can't help them. You can help them leave the cult, you just need to avoid the minefield.

This may be difficult if you are aware of how dangerous and destructive the church is, but you must avoid disconnection to have them remain willing to talk to you.

You need to create a safe atmosphere for the Scientologist to talk and for you to listen. At first, that is the best thing. Do not comment or criticize at this point – just be a sympathetic listener. One of the key elements of listening is staying silent. The less you say, the better. Use “Uh huh?”, “Really?”, “I didn't know that” and anything else that is non-committal but encouraging. Allow the conversation to drift to other subjects but encourage them to talk about their experiences and hopes in Scientology.

Once this safe space has been established, you can ask carefully planned questions. You will know what questions, but along the lines of, "What do you want to accomplish?", "What do you hope for?" You don't have to sarcastically ask the obvious, "... and how's that going for you?" – they will automatically think that themselves. Try to be as non-judgemental as possible. The minute you scoff, criticize, roll your eyes or laugh at the wrong point, they will stop opening up to you.

The Scientologist may ask you “What have you heard about Scientology?” or “What do you think about Scientology?” Do not go into what you have heard or any criticism of Scientology. This puts the Scientologist into “handle the Enemy mode", another of the mines, and then you are no longer talking to the Scientologist but to automatic and carefully coached patter.

Say, instead, “Oh, you know, there are lots of rumors and stuff out there. It isn't important – I want to know about you. What have you been doing?” They may try to persist in their “handling” so you will need to persist as well. “Really, I'm not interested in what others say about Scientology. I just want to hear how you're doing.” Whatever happens, do not let them go into “handle the Enemy mode". That will not help them.

Note that you do not say "I want to hear about Scientology".   That would be very, very wrong.  You want to say something like, "I want to hear about your experiences."  You want them to talk about themselves.

They may go into “recruitment mode". This may be inevitable and you may need some patience to get through this stage. This one may be harder to avoid since you have said you want to hear what they are doing. They will usually start talking about how everything is wonderful and Scientology is perfect and solved all their problems. Do not express any negative attitudes but do not express any interest in doing any Scientology. If they try to press you into taking a course or buying a book just say something like, "I'm doing fine, I'm not interested right now" and leave it at that. Be patient. Trust me, it's as boring to them as it is to you. They will soon move on.

What you are waiting for is for them to relax and just start talking. If you are patient and non-judgemental, this will happen.

You need to understand that the Scientologist already does know that something is very wrong with their church. True, they have no idea how wrong things are, and they don't know how corrupt the leadership is, but they are definitely aware that things are not right. You don't have to convince them of this. You are trying to create a safe space for them to talk about those things.

When they start talking about the stuff they have noticed that is wrong with the Church of Scientology, do not be too enthusiastic in your agreement. Be interested. Say things like “I didn't know that!”, "What happened next?"  This is what you've been waiting for so just listening at this point is vital.  If you immediately bring up all the negative things you know about Scientology, you will undoubtedly push them right back into “handle the Enemy mode" – and destroy any progress you've made.

Note that, at this stage, they will start to disagree with the church but will still consider Scientology to be "wonderful". Don't worry, almost all Scientologists go through this stage. For most, this is just a temporary stage.  Note, also, that attacks against the Scientology belief system aren't very useful.  For now, the Scientologist will start to blame everything on David Miscavige.  Don't worry, this is OK at this stage.

After they have expressed some criticism of their own about the Church of Scientology, they might then ask you what you know. This is an entirely different question than the “handle the Enemy mode" earlier. Now, they really do want to know. Be careful. Do not, at that moment, bring up everything you know about the Church of Scientology, David Miscavige and L. Ron Hubbard – this might trigger “handle the Enemy mode". Answer any specific questions with specific answers and direct them to a specific Internet site. In my opinion, Wikipedia may be the best initial site for them. It really is one of the most balanced presentations about Scientology on the Internet – no ranting and each assertion, both pro- and anti-, must be documented.

If you want to know the attitude you should present to the Scientologist at this stage, read how the Wikipedia information is presented.  Nothing extreme, nothing accusative, some acknowledgement of good aspects while calmly presenting the negatives as well.

Other good sites for newly-awakening Scientologists are those that present Scientologists' "Doubt Formulas".  These are true believer Scientologists who are applying Scientology itself to decide about the Church of Scientology.  Examples: Leaving Scientology, Geir Isene, Michael Tilse, Luis Garcia.  As I've said, these people are using "standard Scientology" to determine that David Miscavige and his Church of Scientology are extremely bad and should not be supported.  This may seem silly to you but, to a Scientologist, these are very persuasive arguments.

At this point, they will probably continue to investigate on their own. They will need your help and support. Your best bet is to continue to listen and help them find good sources of information – keeping in mind that they can't go from Scientologist to non-Scientologist in one leap.

It is normal for them to be very, very afraid of what the church will “to do them”. This is no idle fear.  If they work for a Scientologist, they could lose their job.  If they have friends or family who are Scientologists, they could be disconnected.  Often, they need to keep their doubts secret from other Scientologists.  Assure them that this is quite common and is being done by many Scientologists.

As more and more people leave the Church of Scientology, this becomes less important.

Good luck.