Here’s the Horse Sense: All the good arguments in the world won’t win many voters. Empathy and showing them a complete step by step plan to achieve successful solutions will open the door to get people to listen much faster and more effectively than any well articulated argument.
For many years the electorate has been split in this country. Roughly 40% blindly vote Democrat and another roughly 40% blindly vote Republican. The remaining 20% decide the elections. And those 20% will most likely never embrace a party no matter what either party does. After all these years of arguing and fighting back and forth between the parties, the voters are pretty much where they’ve been all along. Why has one side not proven their point well enough to move voters from one side to the other? I think I have figured out the answer.
Recently I was on a radio talk show and we were discussing and debating the 2012 election and what’s happening in the country. We were also taking calls from listeners.
A call came in from Tom, a Democrat and a guy who sounded fairly educated about the issues being discussed. His concern, like most people’s these days, is the economy. He’s disenchanted that the Democrat’s solutions have not worked and he sounded like he’d like to find a better answer. He was slightly receptive to the ideas that the conservative wing of the Republican Party have promoted. He sees the establishment Republicans as being just like Democrats in supporting big government and too much spending (and he’s right). But he sees conservatives talk about serious spending cuts and he knows that in his personal life that’s what he has to do when he can’t afford his lifestyle. Clearly Tom is figuring out the real cause of our nation's problem is spending, not income.
But Tom reopened my eyes to something I learned many years ago. After over 37 years owning businesses and running businesses for other people I’ve learned a thing or two about the economics of business. And it’s the same as the economics for your family or the economics of a nation. You have to bring in more than you spend. Tom sees that. But Tom fears that supporting a conservative candidate would bring something else he is not prepared to accept. While his fears are unfounded, I realized in listening to him what I’d learned long ago. We conservatives need to learn to sincerely listen and then provide a complete answer so that people can understand not just where we intend to go, but how we intend to get there.
Tom sees conservatives as understanding that we must cut spending. He accepts that it is hard medicine but if we don’t do it we won’t survive. But he is skeptical of conservatives because they talk about the solution being spending cuts, but they don’t articulate a specific plan that helps those who currently aren’t doing well. He said that the average person does not have a Super PAC to speak for them. The average person has to accept what the wealthy people in control on both sides of the aisle do in government. He said that he needs to know that the conservatives don’t plan to get into office and just cut off every program and policy overnight that help people. He wants to know that there is a plan to get people from where they are today to where they can be self-sufficient. Because, he fears, too many people will be left along the roadside as discarded trash. There has to be a process to get them from dependence to self-sufficiency. Otherwise the fear is too great and they will not change their allegiance to the Democrat Party.
Those are pretty serious thoughts, but they’re also extremely important. We are experts at articulating arguments to win the debate, but not at articulating a persuasive argument to get people to support our side. It’s easy for Democrats because they keep offering handouts and people will always take the freebie. When you’re in the mall and one store is giving away free samples in front of their store guess where people go? We like free stuff.
It takes real persuasion to get people to understand why they should change their allegiance. It’s not done by a louder voice in a fight or just a good argument. It’s done by showing compassion by presenting a step by step plan that shows people how their life will get better and their future will be brighter for them and their families.
Conservatives are often so “sure” of their position that they won’t listen to the other side. You and I may have dealt with these discussions and debates a thousand times, but to any individual it may be their first time to really have a discussion. We must be open to hear them and sincerely listen to their concerns, their fears, their desires, their dreams.
Aristotle said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” In my first book, You Sold Me at Hello: How to Get People to Buy Without Being a Salesman, I wrote about the importance of learning to listen more than speak in a business situation when you are with a customer. The idea behind this practice is to gain useful information; it does not mean you have to agree with everything being said. You don’t open communication if you don’t have understanding.
Tom was looking for answers. But what typically happens when someone on the left raises a sincere question is they get an argument. We’re ready for the fight. We’re ready to knock ‘em out cold and parade around the proverbial ring as the champion knowing we won another argument. We’re only interested in arguing the other person into submission. This is common on both sides of the aisle.
Yes, the left usually argues through personal attacks and false claims that have no substance. They try intimidation and to make the right look foolish hoping they can embarrass them and destroy their credibility. President Obama is a perfect example of this. Remember when he made fun of Arizona’s concern about the illegal aliens overrunning their border? Instead of trying to understand the problem and do his job, which is to get the federal government to look for ways to work with the states for solutions to problems (regardless of which party is in power in that state), he chose to try to belittle them and their problems even joking that they were being too extreme and the next thing they’d probably want is a moat with alligators to keep people from crossing the border illegally.
The right might use a lot of facts for their arguments, but they are no better about their argumentative attitudes. Sure, it might make for good ratings on radio or TV, but does it make for converts? Does either side really think the screaming and yelling and arguments are really changing anything? If they do then they’re not paying attention. All those tactics do is alienate people.
If our goal is to fix this country, if our goal is to save this country from the imminent collapse that we face, then we must start to have discussions like this caller was trying to have. We must articulate clearly, concisely, and sincerely what our plan is to get to our stated goals. If we need to cut spending so that our nation can live within its means then we must stop always using sound bytes and begin to use true teaching methods to reach people. Ask any good teacher how effective they could be at teaching if they only were allowed to teach in sound bytes. Any good teacher would tell you that you can’t teach much and you can’t teach well without a serious conversation, and sound bytes does not allow that.
With the open mind that Tom had it was apparent that he’s very receptive to hearing why conservatives feel their arguments would work and the plan to achieve their goals. But part of that conversation has to go beyond telling him what the final goal of less spending would achieve. He has to understand that people on the right do care about all of the citizens, especially the ones in need. He has to hear a plan that shows him that change would be a process that would not just abandon those people. Rather, it would be a process that would help those people each step of the way so they can learn to be self-sufficient. He has to know that his friends, family, neighbors, even that he himself will not be left on the side of the road while the rest of society passes them by to attain a better America with more opportunity.
That caller clearly saw that something is wrong in the model the left has to offer and he’s tired of it. But he is having a hard time understanding that people on the right care about what happens to people like him. We not only have to tell him, we have to show him. We must articulate the plans clearly and be open to questions so that he can learn. Once he grasps what the right has to offer compared to the failed policies he’s supported in the past that have failed him, he will embrace it and become a bigger advocate for what we have to offer than anyone could imagine.
I’m a pundit and am around these arguments between the left and right all the time. I can tell you that very few of them get this point. Very few of them understand that it’s not about being the most famous and popular guest on a radio or TV program or having the program with the highest ratings. It doesn’t matter how big their ratings are if America collapses. Rather, it’s about winning people for the conservative cause so that we really can turn America around and return to the American Dream.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re the average guy on the street or have some platform like a talk show, this is about saving our future. Are you winning people over through persuasion or just trying to win an argument? If conservative values and beliefs mean anything to you then you have to desire to win people over. If you don’t, then you really don’t get it.