Reaching out to Potential Liberty Supporters

The human race hasn’t exactly mastered the art of telepathy yet.  Whether we are right or not only matters if we are able to effectively communicate and share our knowledge with others.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind when speaking to potential supporters about the ideas of liberty.

1.  Know your audience.

  • You’ve heard it before, and now you’ll hear it again.  Keep your listener in mind while you think about what to say.  After all, it’s the potential supporter you want to receive your message.
  • Try to avoid labelling individuals who disagree or seem disinterested as “the enemy” or “unreasonable.”  It is extremely important to remember that everyone who is not a current supporter is just a potential supporter!
  • People usually think about knowing their audience when speaking to a group or writing an essay.  This skill is even more effective in casual conversation — remember that everyday discussion and smalltalk is more frequent among potential supporters than going to fancy events and listening to formal speeches.
  • There are many ways to know your audience.  If your listener’s current standpoints are still a mystery to you, there are many methods to learn about your potential supporters.  One of the easiest and most effective ways is to listen!

2.  Listen to your potential supporters.

  • After introducing yourself, it is often beneficial to let your listener speak first.  If you listen to them, they will be more receptive to listening to you.  Remember, you aren’t just talking to people, you’re talking to potential supporters!
  • You will gain a huge advantage by the time you share your information because you will know where they stand by the time you speak.
  • Keep up your situational awareness.  Your listener talks with more than just words.  Look for buttons, signs, fliers, anything that could give you a clue about where your listener’s current mindset is.  Their mannerisms, appearance, and actions often speak louder than the words they are saying.

3.  Know yourself.

  • It is easy to focus on the potential supporter because you are eager to gets your ideas across.  Self reflection is important before you jump into the fray because being comfortable with yourself will drive up your confidence.
  • Sun Tzu wrote extensively about knowing yourself during conflict in The Art of War:  “It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles…  If you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.”  While potential supporters are definitely not our enemies, you will be in conflict with them.  They have something you want — their support.
  • Knowing yourself applies much further than simply having opinions on big issue topics and ideology.  Recognize your own emotions before talking with potential supporters.  If potential supporters are viewed as ignorant for not being current supporters, they can feel alienated by subconscious messages sent their way.  This often reflects in body language, tone of voice, and the words chosen to illustrate your opinions.  Channel your excitement about spreading the ideas of liberty into a positive, welcoming atmosphere for your potential supporter.

4.  Find common ground. (A.K.A. “Tailor your message to win”)

  • Finding common ground is your most important task after introducing yourself.  This is one of the reasons why knowing yourself and your potential supporter is so important!
  • Do some research on other candidates and their opinions on the issues.  While you go through your daily life, it may be best to focus on the top polling candidates since these supporters are who you are most likely to encounter.  If you go to a tea party, research the tea party favorites.  If you go to a conservative event, research the popular conservative candidates.  You get the idea.
  • Unless you have facts to back up your claims, don’t speak your opinions as facts with your potential supporters.  Words like “I think”, and “It’s my opinion that” go a long way in showing potential supporters that you are reasonable and open minded.
  • There are a variety of tools to help you find common ground.  For example, most waiters and waitresses would likely share common ground with Ron Paul’s bill to end taxes on tips.  In my personal experience, a waiter at Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans started speaking about how much he admired Ron Paul, even though he disagreed with many of “his other policies.”  By showing him that he had much to agree with Ron Paul on big policies and legislation that affected him personally, many of his prior doubts about Ron Paul’s philosophy of liberty began to vanish.

5.  Stick to the big topics

  • Often when confronted, potential supporters may try to derail the conversation in order to discredit current supporters.  This is often much more successful than it should be.
  • For example, a potential supporter may say that libertarians are crazy because they want to get rid of FDA, which would then stop inspecting America’s meat products for e-coli.  After all, they don’t have a lab in their home to inspect their own meat!  How are they going to protect themselves and their families without the FDA?   While it may be tempting to attempt a delivery of a half-thought-out, free market alternative speech about how libertarian values work in all situations, this is usually the wrong move.  Stop and give their argument some serious consideration instead of immediately dismissing it.  Potential supporters, like everyone else, have a desire to be taken seriously.
  • A more appropriate response may be that while you might disagree on this issue, removal of the FDA isn’t on any libertarian’s current to-do-list.  You can let them know you think the free market might be able to provide a better solution, but the FDA isn’t something on the top of your list for changing.
  • Go back to common ground.  Remind them that even though you might have a small disagreement over the role of the FDA, you have big agreements on other issues.  When speaking with liberals, you might remind them that you are both concerned about our civil liberties and the 4th amendment being violated by the PATRIOT Act and similar legislation.  When speaking with conservatives, you might remind them that we are going bankrupt due to endless spending on the welfare-warfare state, and the philosophy of liberty has free market solutions to solve our debt crisis.
  • You can always close with something like “You know, it would be great if we could solve these pressing issues so we could have more time to discuss things like this.  If we could just get principled liberty candidates in office and help educate other Americans on these subjects, we might make some real headway in restoring [your potential supporter’s common-ground issues].”
  • It is important to be clear, concise, and brief so your message doesn’t get lost in its own details.
  • Sticking to the big topics is not a clever way to avoid an uncomfortable subject with your potential supporter.  It is important because you want to motivate them.  What motivates you to get involved?  Is it endless debt, endless wars, and the invasion of our privacy, or is it your long-held hatred for the FDA’s inspection of your meat products?  Stay on point with the big topics and stay relevant!

6.  You don’t lose anything if your potential supporter is not interested or doesn’t agree.

  • Not getting your message to resonate with a potential supporter is one of the most frustrating feelings for a liberty activist.  You’ve done your homework.  You know the facts.  Why can’t your potential supporter see what you can see as a current supporter?
  • At this point, you’re left with a tricky situation.  You are frustrated.  Your potential supporter may also be a little frustrated with you, especially if you don’t like their candidate or their ideas.
  • There could be a multitude of reasons why your message doesn’t feel like it’s getting across.  Maybe your potential supporter is currently upset about something else.  Maybe they just have a bad headache.  It could be anything, really, so the most important thing to remember is that you have nothing to lose in this situation.
  • Remember that even if they don’t show it, you’ve just left an impact on the mind of your potential supporter.  When they take time to think about issues and the presidential election, your words will have an effect on their perception of these events.  If they have a decent memory, they may even recall what you said as if you were speaking with them again.
  • As long as you remain calm, collected, and friendly, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
  • Let your potential supporter know that you enjoyed talking to them, and you hope they consider your ideas as they follow the news about the presidential election.

Hopefully these tips will help you remember what’s important during this and future elections, and how to approach finding new supporters.  Each of us have our own vision of a utopian society, but the most likely reality is that our vision will never come 100% into fruition.  Luckily for us, our individual visions are probably flawed anyway, and are ultimately better off with some outside input.

Because this outside vision is important, and because you need the majority of votes to win an election, we must reach out to others – especially potential supporters outside of our comfort zone ideologically.  Maybe they won’t respond in the way we hope immediately, but who knows what time will bring about in their hearts and minds.  Indeed, “the best way to influence others is by setting a good example.”  Reach out to these people and invite them to celebrate the freedoms we all enjoy, and don’t beat each other over the head for your differences.

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