As much as people argue about politics and other important issues, you’d think we’d have a better record of success. After all, why would we keep doing something that’s doomed to failure almost all of the time? We engage in rhetorical combat with no apparent expectation of winning.
Oddly enough, our low expectations create a self-fulfilling prophecy. We don’t think people will change their minds, so they don’t.
But what if we fully expected to win some, then planned and behaved accordingly?
In other words, how would I treat you if I expected that sooner or later, you and I will not only be friends, but you’ll come around to my way of thinking on some of the most important issues?
Playing the expectations game is one of the more challenging aspects of the WinSome strategy. It has two major elements:
Setting reasonable, phased expectations, and
Committing for the long term.
A plan to win is, at minimum, a plan. So that means I’m not haphazard in my dealings with people. I’m intentional.
A phased plan merely means that there are benchmarks along the way at which I can determine how well I’m doing. Each phase successfully completed is not only a step toward the ultimate goal, but it’s a complete, freestanding success in its own right. If nothing else good happens, and you never get to the ultimate goal, you’re still better off than if you had never employed the WinSome strategy.
Win Some in Phases
WinSome is based on the belief that persuasion requires communication, which requires listening. To earn a hearing, the person you’re trying to persuade must respect or like you, preferably both. There are other ways to get people to listen, but they involve coercion, manipulation or force, and none of them work in the long run.
As the old saying goes, “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”
So, this multi-phase approach begins with making a friend. You may already know how to do this. If so, you’re ahead of the game. But I’ve found that many people haven’t made a new friend in years.
I’m not talking about making the kind of friend who’s so close you read each others’ diaries and buy necklaces with pendants that fit together to form a heart.
We’re merely going to make a friend whose company we enjoy, and who enjoys ours. People we like and respect, no matter their opinions on important issues, comprise the most important aspect of the WinSome strategy.
I’d rather have a friend than an opinion.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t value my opinions and principles. It simply recognizes that I’d rather enjoy human fellowship than constantly argue over politics.
Given the choice between fellowship and debate, I choose the former. And that starts with making a friend.
Years go, I stood outside a polling place in Pennsylvania, with another member of my political party. We were handing out literature to the trickle of voters who came to cast ballots in a local election. My companion that day complained non-stop. He told me everything that wasn’t going right with the party. He explained why we lost so many elections, and failed to win new comrades to the cause. He believed that we didn’t fight hard enough for what we believe, and that we compromised too easily with “the establishment.”
After listening for what seemed like a long time, I said, “Joe, there’s nothing wrong with the Republican Party that a Dale Carnegie course couldn’t solve.”
He looked at me as if I had suddenly sprouted antlers.
Frowning, he said, “What do you mean?”
The fact that he asked that question practically made my point for me. It’s not that he didn’t know that Dale Carnegie wrote the classic, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” It’s that he saw no connection between the skills necessary to win friends, and those needed to win elections. He was mired in a system that focuses on beating, rather than winning — on dividing rather than building.
How Do We Make a Friend?
It should come as no surprise that people don’t initiate a relationship by seeking points of disagreement. Furthermore, in every human relationship, there will be points of disagreement that don’t have to ruin the love and respect we have for each other.
The premise of WinSome is that you’ll never win any without earning a hearing for your ideas, and you’ll rarely earn a hearing without a degree of affection and respect for each other.
The next point is the toughest for idea-warriors to believe: If you make a friend, but fail to make a convert to your ideas, it’s still a win. It’s better than not making a friends. It’s far superior to antagonizing someone who disagrees with you.
To win some by being winsome, means that there’s something attractive about your character and personality that draws others to you.
People Love People Who Love Life
I’ve found that that beyond the Boy-Scout basics of honesty, loyalty, caring, etc., people seem most attracted to people who genuinely enjoy life.
If you’re living according to your ideals and worldview, and you enjoy it, folks are going to want to be with you. You’re joyful, generous and fun. That’s attractive. People will wonder “What are you on?”
In political terms, if you’re engaged in the pursuit of happiness and endeavor to live the freedom you proclaim, others will want some of that.
[NOTE: If your worldview has fails to produce joy in even YOU, then perhaps you should consider an alternative. I have one in mind. In any case, you might to take a brief break from trying to persuade people to adopt the beliefs that have made you miserable.]