Especially when you are meeting for the first time with people who are distracted by their own priorities and indifferent to yours. Whose worldview appears different than yours. Whose behavior you may abhor. Who have considerably more power than you do. Who have the potential to cause harm to your membership or constituency. And who you want to establish some kind of rapport with.
You may not have the resources of a Prime Minister’s Office but you can still take a page or two from their script.
- Do your homework – learn their priorities, preferred language, soft spots and current political challenges. Identify common background, mutual friends and shared interests.
- Pave the way – with meetings and calls with elected representatives, public servants and political staff weeks and months beforehand.
- Sync your efforts with others in your movement to ensure your messages are consistent or complementary.
- Set the bar high for establishing a relationship. Set the bar low for policy outcomes. You’ll have more success dealing with policy and principles in the months and years to come if there is even a small basis for trust and respect.
- Most of all bring your emotional intelligence. It is possible to clarify differences without antagonizing. Should contentious issues emerge, frame the resolution in terms of the values you know you both share. You will never insult by appealing to the better angels of their nature.
To have the results you’ve never had. You must do what you’ve never done. (Pierre Ducasse)