Saturday, August 30, 2014

#Dream14: be kind and show grace to win the hearts of others

I’ve attended various blogger and center-right conferences for a number of years now and, among other things, they were focused on ‘how-to’ and engaging those of similar thinking to promote core principles of free markets, the Constitution and the ideals of our Founding Fathers.

While there is plenty of that at the Americans for Prosperity Defending the American Dream Summit in Dallas, the new message is that preaching to the choir isn’t going to advance the message or persuade those who either disagree or are uninformed and whose hearts and minds we need to win.

In fact, overwhelmingly, the discussion in sessions and speeches is that techniques that work on conservatives are likely to backfire when talking to those who are receptive to conservative principles but are predisposed to reject the buzzwords usually associated with them.

The Leadership Institute hosted a media training session where they helped people who have never been on camera – or those who are finding themselves being asked to speak to the media – understand how to better communicate their points.

They gave some instructions, video tapped attendees in an interview, then shared the recording and offered critiques. A key point was to be genuine, smile and let people get to know you because likability is more important than talking points.

But another thing participants were told is to avoid catch phrases with general audiences and tailor the choice of words so the people who are seeing the interview don’t immediately tune out. For instance, “big government” is fine with conservative audiences, but “bureaucrats in Washington” is probably better for general audiences.

Guy Benson, second from the left
In one of the general sessions on building your brand, Guy Benson, senior political editor at, said to work hard and “be nice.” Attendees were also told that they should be the same person online as they are in person and to allow people to see more about them than just their political opinions.

In another social media session about finding followers, Dana Loesch said to act with grace. She warned the standing room only crowd not to become what they hate.

“Social media is a form of journalism,” she said. “Journalism is a practice. Anyone can do it. But even though we are not burdened by the same constraints as traditional media, we still have a responsibility to do it right.”
Standing room only crowd at one breakout session.

She said showing grace to others in our interactions is the pathway to winning the hearts of those who are persuadable.

Loesch also emphasized that citizen journalism is not a gated community, no matter how much the main stream media and certain politicians believe. “Citizen media is the new minuteman,” she said. “The person you convert is one more person you don’t have to fight,” she added, saying you can still disagree politely and plant the seeds of change.

And she noted it was especially important to show grace to those on the same side, even when none is given.
But, she warned, “Don’t mistake finding common ground with compromise. You don’t compromise the truth.”

Dr. Melissa Clouthier instructed attendees to remember what they’re fighting for. “Remember the big picture,” she said, “and be sure your actions move you toward the right ends. We’re not fighting each other. We’re fighting an ideology that is absolutely destructive, not just in the U.S., but everywhere.”

Panelists Carol Wehe, Erik Telford, Dr. Melissa Clouthier
and Dana Loesch (seated left to right)
She said the time is ripe to persuade others.

“There is a deep sense of abiding shame across America because they voted for Obama – twice,” she said. This presents a real opportunity to reach people with a message that resonates, especially through pop culture.

She said politics is downstream from culture so understanding and knowing today’s culture is a great way to start a conversation with someone who might not otherwise be receptive to what is traditionally a political message. The new movie “The Giver” is a great example of something many are enjoying and it can be discussed with anyone, regardless of their politics. And since it has a great conservative message, it can be used to introduce conservative principles outside the political realm.

Even Arthur Brooks, president of American Enterprise Institute and one of the keynote speakers during the genera session, followed the same theme.

He said an Associated Press poll showed that only 16 percent of Americans think the Republican Party is compassionate – and that’s a problem.

He noted that a majority of people voted for Obama because they thought he cared about people like them. “You can’t win when think you don’t care about them,” he said.

Arthur Brooks during his stop at
the Blogger Lounge before his
address during the general session.
“I’m a conservative because I believe in lifting people up,” Brooks said. “Conservative values are the only values that give people dignity. Capitalism has lifted millions of people across the world out of poverty.”

But he said, conservative are good at explaining what they’re fighting against.

“The trouble is,” he said, “people don’t want to know what you’re fighting against, they want to know who you are fighting for. Until we convince them we’re fighting for them, we’ll lose.”

He said it was a moral obligation to fight for those who have been left behind.

“They might not vote like us or like us – it doesn’t matter,” Brooks said. “Patriots and leaders fight for everyone no matter how they vote. Stop fighting against things. Fight for people.”

As a result of this training, I expect that many of the grass roots will change their tactics, focusing more on the ‘how’ than the ‘what’ and engaging all people with a refined message that will actually begin to win their hearts – and their minds.

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