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Thursday, August 11, 2016

 10:50 AM 

Wendy Riemann column: Advantageous Advocacy: He’s just not that into you

I will call you!

Sure he will.  Sometimes advocacy is just like dating.  Sometimes a person needs to tune into when she is being politely rejected.

It is not you, it is me.

Much like a guy who fears intimacy, this is also often true in advocacy.  It really is not personal; it is perhaps just a poor connection or bad timing.

The last Advantageous Advocacy column discussed the importance of listening and using two ears and one mouth in proportion.  There is even more credence to really listening to what is NOT being said.

How often do people like giving “bad” news?  Based on the statistics of people who no longer properly RSVP to an event, some people do not like to say no, offer rejection, or take a pass – ever – for fear of being the bad guy or disappointing someone (writer note: many hosts just want the courtesy of a reply for a proper food headcount).

Logic would then tell us that if a person’s job is dependent on our vote, he may not always provide an outright no.  He may play hard to get or string us along… give us hope when he has little or no intention of committing.  It is the reality of the beast.  If we are listening to what he is saying and paying attention to how he says it, advocates can gain the best comprehension (or in party terms, he did not RSVP, so he is probably not coming).

Perhaps there is not money in the budget.  Perhaps an opponent has taken up the cause more passionately.  Perhaps the official is just not interested in the topic.  Or, perhaps the office needs more education on the cause over time.  There are a plethora of reasons why an office may not jump on an issue, regardless of an advocate’s credentials, passion, finances, or anything else.

In many cases, staff will likely leave the door cracked.  They do this by saying they will keep it in mind, or suggesting now is not a good time, but perhaps in the future.  This is a necessary step because first, the advocate is a voter, and second, in politics, we just do not know, so we never say never (until we say never).

BUT, the congressman/governor/official said that they were really interested in this cause and said to speak to his staff about it...

This happens.  How else was he supposed to politely end the brief conversation?  They are interested to some extent.  Keep in mind, the elected official almost always plays the good cop in expressing support, interest, or enthusiasm.  Staff become the bad cop in dealing with realities, logistics, and other details.

There simply may not be a reason why the official is not taking up the cause at the moment.  However, pestering the staff, sneaking into other meetings to bring up the issue, or not giving up after a few fruitless tries – while tenacious – is not helping the cause in the long run.  Sometimes a person just needs to tune into the writing on the wall and realize, he’s just not that into you.

An advocate may need to wait until a different opening presents itself, the budget is over, a new official is elected, or some other game-changing happening that offers better timing and circumstances.

I have written it often: advocacy is a marathon, not a sprint.  While it can be frustrating when a person is excited and ready to go, sometimes patiently waiting it out is the only option to not damage staff relationships or harm the cause.  It may even turn out to be for the best in the grand scheme of life.

It does not always make sense.  In fact, politics, like dating, often does not make sense. Ultimately, it is the story of the great blue whale.  He is the biggest creature on earth, but has a throat smaller than a foot in diameter.  Why?  Because that is just the way it is.

-- Riemann is president of 1492 Communications, a consulting firm. She can be reached at: wendy@1492communications.com.

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