Do you wish you knew how to be more persuasive? Whether in the political arena, in the blogosphere, in the workplace, in retail sales, in attracting clients, whatever…are you challenged to figure out how to win more people over to your point of view?
I recently came across a simple truth about human nature and people’s attitudes towards each other. I suggest it should become the core tenet of anyone’s efforts at persuasion. Here it is:
“People don’t care what you think,
if they don’t think that you care.”
In other words, caring is a two-way street. If you’re the one trying to make a favorable, lasting impression on another person or group, for whatever purpose, it’s on you to initiate the honest exchange of caring.
I was just out of college nearly 30 years ago when I first listened to some tapes by motivational speaker Earl Nightingale. He explained that the world reflects back exactly what you project out upon the world. He said interacting with others is like standing in front of a cold stove: If you won’t make the effort to stoke it with wood, you will not be rewarded with warmth. If you want something from others, even just an open mind or a fair hearing, the first investment MUST be yours. People will repay you in kind. As ye sow, so shall ye reap.
Honestly, I have neglected that lesson INFINITELY more times than I’ve remembered it. Every week or month, I find that I must start over — sometimes at square one — in rebuilding the integrity of one relationship or another, because I forgot the cold stove’s lesson AGAIN. If you’re a continuous example of imperfection like me, you’ve surely noticed how amazing it is to observe people who naturally, effortlessly stoke others with honest warmth first.
Now, as a case study in the lack of caring, please read this:
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. [They believe] that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. And I mean…he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. And he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean that’s what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people—I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince the 5 to 10 percent in the center that are independents that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon in some cases emotion, whether they like the guy or not….”
Yup. It’s Mitt Romney, 5/17/2012, at a Boca Raton FL fundraiser.
Sure, Romney was answering a question about the strategy of campaigning, and whether he should expend effort to “worry about those people” (the 47% who pay no federal income taxes). He certainly didn’t intend for this to be used to imply how he would govern if elected. But it was used that way — very effectively. For a moment here, pretend you are one of “the 5 to 10 percent in the center.” After hearing Romney say his job is not to worry about the 47%, do you believe Romney honestly cares about you either, beyond his obvious desire to get your vote?
In this and many other appearances, Romney made Conservatism sound like a cold, impersonal business acquisition strategy. Some pundits said Romney speaks Conservatism “as a second language.”
Want proof how voters felt? See this Fox News exit poll excerpt:
Which ONE of these four candidate qualities mattered most in deciding how you voted for president? (CHECK ONLY ONE) (Sample: 10798 respondents)
Candidate Quality Total Obama Romney
Shares my values 27% 42% 55%
Is a strong leader 18% 38% 61%
Has a vision for the future 29% 45% 54%
Cares about people like me 21% 81% 18%
In stark contrast, Ronald Reagan relentlessly explained his principles without compromising them. He made a significant majority of Americans deeply believe that Conservative principles are a reliable bedrock on which to build a prosperous nation…his shining city on a hill:
“I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it, and see it still.”
If you’re a believer in the constrained philosophy of Conservatism who wants to help rebuild the integrity of our vision in the eyes of moderates, unaffiliated voters, and perhaps even some avowed liberals, I suggest that we re-anchor ourselves every week and every month to this fundamental TOUCHSTONE: “People won’t care what we think, if they think we don’t care about them.”