People Don’t Care What You Think

Two Way Street(photo credit)

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?

Me too.

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.”

Ronald Reagan(photo credit)


About Necessary and Proper

Jeff believes in the Individual's ability to excel when liberty and freedom of choice are protected. Also believes in the Community's ability to take care of the vast majority of its own issues and needs when the federal government leaves the Community's resources and sphere of control alone. State and local choice produce better results than centralized federal control.
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9 Responses to People Don’t Care What You Think

  1. Jane says:

    Oh my, those statistics are telling, aren’t they? I can believe it, and even relate to how people felt. When our own President mocked a man with 10 kids who needed a vehicle bigger than a 4 passenger, I felt he had judged me and didn’t care because I had more than 2 kids. People were saying how nice he was, but to me, that left a negative emotion and I wasn’t seeing the niceness. Ronald Reagan somehow included everyone while promoting growth and freedom. This needs to be our motto and how we do politics. Thanks for doing these articles Jeff. They really make me think about how I come across to others.


  2. D.J. says:

    The problem may be that the conservative philosophy appears to those outside of it that we care more about the philosophy than the individual people. Explaining that the philosophy of equal opportunity, and freedom of choice, and responsibility for ones self leads to caring, charity, and help from those who succeed through it is very difficult.


  3. bullright says:

    Jeff, good post. Well, how can one go so far in diagnosing the problem correctly and then totally blow the treatment/solution so badly? I also have the unscientific thesis that a given amount of people will follow momentum. How many? I dunno. Does it matter? But clearly one also is tasked to show the mo is in your favor. (via perception or otherwise) That aside, he committed nearly every error he could. If it were a doctor we’d probably scream “malpractice”.

    I agree he was challenged with getting that point through a smokescreen and mountain of propaganda. I also have a basic rule, for what its worth, that the more ‘sincerely’ one explains themselves(or the reasoning) the more convincing they are that they are firm in their beliefs. He failed at that one. What he did was barely enough to keep the home team on the field engaged – not convincing even spectators. SO it wasn’t just the message but the delivery and tactics. Like letting attacks go by thinking your opponent is going to trip on his own feet. That worked well too, didn’t it? 🙂


    • Hi Bull,

      At the time that Romney’s 47% comments came to light, I posted an article explaining the context of Romney’s comments because the media was glossing over it. But in that article, here’s what I said about Romney’s remarks:

      “I acknowledge it was a political stumble. It was verbal clumsiness from Romney. Yesterday he admitted he was totally wrong. But I do not believe it was an “attack” on the 47%.”

      I have reconsidered that last sentence I wrote on Oct 5th. It wasn’t an “attack” per se. But overall it projects a negative attitude of superiority and intolerance that doesn’t serve us well. President Reagan could earnestly connect with nearly all Americans, without putting on a phony facade. So I wasn’t just comparing Romney to Reagan. I was comparing ALL OF US conservatives to Romney, and saying that we ALL need to try to become a little more like the “Great Communicator.”

      Thanks for checking in…haven’t heard from you in awhile.
      – Jeff


  4. Hadn’t stopped in in a while so I thought I’d see what you were up to. Certainly some food for thought and some good advice.

    I hate to sound like I’m using a “but” because it makes it sound like I’m either making an excuse or disagreeing.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that while it is true that we all often put our foot in our mouth or don’t communicate effectively, it is also true that the Left understands the principles you reference in your article and takes the other side of the argument in a more proactive way and simply portrays conservatives as uncaring.



    • Aaron, I appreciate the comment.

      Perhaps I’m being too optimistic, but in most of the articles I’ve posted this year, I am asserting that if we can at least partially close the “caring gap” in the eyes of moderates and undecideds, then the worsening fiscal realities will — all by themselves — break the tie in favor of conservative principles.

      As I once wrote: “we will never win over the deeply entrenched liberals who have a significantly different life vision than ours. But we can invest time to persuade the “undecided” and “uncommitted” and “independent” folks. To me conservative ideology leads us down a better road…but even if it’s perceived to be a tie, here’s the ideological tie-breaker: Which vision — liberal or conservative — is, in fact, affordable??”

      Your comment sounds a bit dejected. What else can we pursue besides positive thinking and reinvigorative planning? Are we supposed to roll up in a fetal position and quiver beneath our beds? Heck no…not me, and I hope not you. What are your positive suggestions? What are you doing different than before Nov 6th 2012 to try to connect anew with moderates and swing voters?

      – Jeff


      • I actually totally agree. The point I was attempting to make was that there is often a purposeful misrepresentation of that message by those who do not wish conservatives to succeed. As I may have mentioned I am becoming more involved in my local political action committees and what you suggested in your article is one of my core messages. It is absolutely of the utmost importance to frame the message in the proper way and be up close and personal when one does it.


  5. Pingback: 3/13/2013 -- WSJ: One GOP Lawmaker Shows How to Woo Latino Voters | Necessary and Proper Gov't

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