4 Steps To Negotiating With a Politician

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Have you ever said, “vote them all out?”

Do you sometimes think anybody would do a better job than the incumbent? Do you feel you have no influence in Jefferson City, Springfield, or Washington? Do you feel that way because you don’t have thousands of dollars to donate and rich friends with oodles of cash you can bundle?

I feel that way all the time. Ask my friends Ben Evans and Michelle Moore. Twenty times a year, I’m ready to throw up my hands and walk away from politics altogether. Politicians’ actions often bum me out. Ann Wagner supporting the Farm Bill bums me out. The Missouri House Republicans bailing out red light camera companies bums me out. A lot about politics bums me out.

But I have more influence than I think. So do you.

You don’t have to “throw them all out,” which isn’t going to happen, anyway. You don’t have to walk away from self-governance in frustration, either.

The question is, “how do I maximize my power and influence?”

Here are four steps that will increase your influence when talking to a politician–or a car salesman.

1. Know Your Positions and Your Interests and Let Go of Your Positions

Politicians excel at separating you from your interests by focusing on your positions. Most people have no idea what the difference is. If you want to win a negotiation with politician–or anyone else–you need to know this key distinction. And you need to lose your emotional attachment to positions.

A position is very specific and immediate. “I want an ice cream cone.” Or, “I want to defeat Ann Wagner.”

Your interest, though, is the result you want for yourself. It’s why you think you need your position.

Let’s use a career example, which is more familiar to many than political negotiation.

Your position: You want a management job and a six-figure salary. You work like a dog, build your case, brush up your resume, and land that management job for $120,000 a year.

Then you find yourself working 80 hours a week, you’re on the road half the time, and you’re warring with your family and your co-workers all the time. Your boss tells you to cut your staff by 20 percent, which means you have fire five good people so the shareholders can pocket extra cash before some tax increase takes effect.

You got your coveted position, but you’re not happy. Your position wasn’t aligned to your interests.

Your Interests: You wanted that title and that salary was because you wanted status and money. That’s your “why.” You wanted money and status so you could you do more for your family. Or maybe treat your friends to a drink now and then, or take your kids on a Disney vacation, or just feel successful. You wanted to be happy, healthy, and respected, not tired, miserable, and despised.

By blindly pursuing your position, you took yourself further away from your real interests.

Back to politics. Why did you become interested in the Farm Bill? Was it because farm subsidies mean a lot to you? Or was it because the Farm Bill balloons the debt? Or because the Farm Bill grows government dependency?

Focusing on how one representative votes on one bill one time might win your position. It might also work against your interests.

Politicians excel at using positions to advance their interests. For example, they hold many votes on a single bill so they can vote both ways. Senator Roy Blunt could have stood with Ted Cruz and blocked cloture on the budget bill last year. Instead, he voted for cloture, ensuring the budget bill would pass. Then he voted against the bill on the floor, so he could say, “I voted against it.”

What you and I might call duplicity, the politician calls looking out for his own interests..

The first step in negotiation, then, is to write down your position and your interest. In fact, write down lots of positions and detach yourself from those positions. Detach your emotions. Paint a vivid mental picture of your interests. Never surrender or compromise your interests. Use positions to advance your interests.

2. Forget “Win-Win”

Forget all that talk about “win-win.” It’s all B.S. As negotiating guru Jim Camp says:

A win-win negotiation is not controlled in a clear, step-by-step way. That’s just one reason win-win gets slaughtered in the real business world, again and again and again. I know chief executives who are proud of their deal making, but they have no discipline, no real basis for making their decisions. They’re shooting from the hip under the assumption that everyone else is shooting from the hip.

From Start With NO! The Negotiating Tools The Pros Don’t Want You To Know

Your member of Congress is not shooting from the hip. She’s not interested in “win-win.” She’s interested in re-election and increased power and status in her caucus. She wants to keep people happy–the people who have money to donate, influence to peddle, or voters to mobilize. And it doesn’t matter who “she” is. All politicians know their interests and they know how to negotiate with voters anchored to positions.

3. Let Them Say “No”

You know that famous business book, “Getting to YES?” It’s crap, too. Forget it. Do the opposite. Try to get to no because you must hear “no” before the real negotiation begins.

Again, from Start With NO! The Negotiating Tools The Pros Don’t Want You To Know

How can this be? Because “no” is a real decision that induces the party across the table into actually thinking about why they’ve just said “no.” The responsibility of making a clear decision helps the adversary focus on the real issues of the negotiation. The adversary has to take responsibility for “no,” so now everyone has something real to talk about. In fact, as we will soon see, the mere invitation for the other side to say “no” changes the dynamic of a negotiation in a very beneficial way.

Here’s how to start your negotiation with a politician.

“This might not be the right position for you, I don’t know. It’s okay to tell me to get lost. You won’t hurt my feelings. I’m just interested in how you feel about the Farm Bill, and I’d like to see if we agree on the long term strategy for shrinking government.”

Look what just happened.

First, you told her that you’re interested in (a) what’s best for her (“This might not be right for you”), and (b) her feelings. Not just her intellect, but her human, emotional feelings. Like it or not, politician or not, nobody in a negotiation really cares about you–until you show her that you care about her. That politician is a human being, too, with a brain wired just like yours. She has a family, kids, friends, and worries. Letting her know that you will respect and safeguard her feelings and her best interest will lead her to do the same for you.

Next, you’ve reminded her that you are a human being, too. You are more than just a voter registration number with no money to donate and no time to knock on doors for her. You’ve humanized and humbled yourself. And you’ve humbled yourself for the right reason. Not because you’re a lowly voter in the presence of an exalted Member of Congress. You are a human being, a meager sinner, just like her.

Finally, you’ve avoided talk of your position and promoted your shared interest instead. At the same time, you’ve asked her to stake out her position. In other words, you’ve gained all the power in this conversation. You put yourself in charge of her interests but asked her to defend her position.

4. Accept “No” Again

The more you’re willing to hear her say “no,” the more likely you are to win a final agreement. Nobody likes high-pressure sales, right? Do you enjoy a car salesman asking you every two minutes, “so I can get you into this car today?”

No. You hate it, and so does everybody else. Politicians hate being “sold” a position. They hate it so much that they usually say, “You’re right. I’ll vote against the Farm Bill.”

And they do. They vote against it in committee or on some procedural vote or some amendment. Or they get Congressman X from Oregon to vote for the Farm Bill so they can vote against it. It’s the political equal of telling that pushy car salesman, “I’ll think about it,” or “I need to talk it over with my wife.”

As former FBI chief hostage negotiator told Eric Barker, you don’t want to hear “you’re right.” Why?

Because we love it when somebody tells us we’re right. It’s usually when we’re making an argument and we’ve worn the other side down, and they’re just sick of us… Even if I believe in my heart that you are right, I’m not vested when you’re right. But when I say “that’s right,” I’ve put myself in a position of adjudicating what you’ve said, and I’ve pronounced what you’ve said right. There’s a much greater chance that I’m going to accept it if I’ve said “that’s right” as opposed to “you’re right.”

Instead, make the politician say “no.” Force her to make a true decision, to take a stand. Then ask open ended questions.

Open ended questions do two things:

They build rapport by letting her speak freely and openly.
They force her give good reasons for supporting a bill that contradicts her stated ideology.
Here are some examples.

“Why are you so committed to this particular bill?”

“What about this bill makes you want to vote for it?”

“People will ask me, so what are 10 good reasons why my friends and I should support this bill?”

These questions won’t induce her to say, “I was wrong. I’m going to fight this bill tooth and nail.” In fact, you probably won’t change her vote on this bill. But this isn’t the last bill you care about, and it’s probably not the most important.

What you will do with this method is far more valuable that winning your position on one bill. You’ve become a trusted sounding board for a member of Congress. She will seek you out in a crowd. She will take your phone calls. Because you made her feel safe and respected.

Someday, she will cast a difficult vote because you gained influence in her mind. She will know that she cannot shew you away with “I’ll vote against something for you.” She’ll respect the intellectual challenges you pose while respecting even more the emotional cover you provide.

That’s how you win your interests and change her position. And gain a reputation as a level-headed advocate for you cause at the same time. It’s a lot easier, less expensive, and more satisfying that wasting your time “voting them all out.”

But don’t you dare call it a “win-win.”

Why Do Messages Backfire?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

In the 1970s, a magazine ad for Benson & Hedges cigarettes portrayed a hockey fight. Two players slug it out. Sticks and gloves litter the ice.

The point of view is on-ice, in the midst of the scrum. The crowd is on its feet, banging the glass. You’re right there with linesmen trying to break it up.

The hockey gloves are Coopers. Every hockey player knows the name. In the photo, one of the gloves has been doctored.

clipped from The Dark Side of Subliminal Advertising: http://darksidesubliminal.blogspot.com/

Where the word “Cooper” belongs is another word. A word you wouldn’t expect a cigarette company to place on an ad for cigarettes. But the word is undeniable.

It’s “cancer.”


Because advertisers understand how messaging works. Government and politicians don’t.

Here’s an explanation of the ad from the Dark Side of Subliminal blog:

This print ad has been deliberately created, with a subliminal message, to tap into the subconscious anxiety and fear of the target audience, surrounding the threat of cancer.
With concern over the fear of cancer, stress management expert Sally Wilson states:
“All fear will create a degree of anxiety. Conscious fears can be relatively easy to dissolve through reasoning. Other fears can deeply affect our subconscious attitudes and affect our mental health with the power to disturb our peace of mind. We may not even be aware of them. But they will all contribute to any anxiety state we may suffer.”1
Read the whole article on Darkside of Subliminal Advertising. It’s fascinating.
Still don’t get it? Smoking cessation guru Eric Eraly explaines more:
As a smoker, you smoke a lot of cigarettes when you feel fear…So, when I tell you that smoking is bad, that you can get cancer from it…that you are killing yourself, most likely you’ll become afraid and you’ll want a cigarette.
Every smoker knows Eraly’s right. Anxiety makes the monkey scratch. Fear makes him bite.
In Benson & Hedges ad, the advertiser increased the desire to smoke with an ad the Surgeon General would have applauded. Advertisers know what doctors do not. Perhaps because advertisers get paid to change behavior while doctors get paid to deal with consequences.
On Monday, I wrote about Senator Roy Blunt’s bill to require a disclaimer on Obamacare ads that informs people they paid for the ad. I understand his sentiment. His prescription will backfire.
Here’s another example of government messaging having and effect 180 degrees out from its intent.
Researchers studied the effects of messaging parents about the safety of childhood vaccines. The finding are amazing.
Parents who were initially skeptical of the MMR vaccine’s safety, but were convinced by the messaging the the vaccine is safe, became less likely to have their children vaccinated. From LiveScience:
Surveying 1,759 parents, researchers found that while they were able to teach parents that the vaccine and autism were not linked, parents who were surveyed who had initial reservations about vaccines said they were actually less likely to vaccinate their children after hearing the researchers messages.
While the parents were cognitively converted to the pro-vaccine position, they became emotionally more anti-vaccine because of the messaging.
And the reverse hits just keep on coming. Again from The Dark Side of Subliminal Advertising:
Recently, the largest neuromarketing experiment in history was conducted using two of the most sophisticated brain-scanning instruments in the world, fMRI (Functional magnetic resonance imaging) and SST (steady-state topography-an advanced version of the electroencephalograph).
This study was funded by eight multinational companies and cost around $7 million.
Dr. Gemma Calvert, the leader of the research team for the large neuromarketing experiment, discovered the following:
1.     “Cigarette warnings—whether they informed smokers they were at risk of contracting emphysema, heart disease, or a host of other chronic conditions—had in fact stimulated an area of the smoker’s brain called the nucleus accumbens, otherwise known as “the craving spot.”  This region is a chain-link of specialized neurons that lights up when the body desires something.” 12
2.     “In short, the fMRI results showed that cigarette warning labels not only failed to deter smoking, but by activating the nucleus accumbens, it appeared they actually encouraged smokers to light up.” 13
So what’s the answer? Throw up our hands and give up?
No. Changing beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors is too important to surrender. Advertisers don’t give up. You never heard Don Draper say, “Forget it, Roger. You can’t get people to buy laxatives.”
To change beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors, look at the sciences. Don’t craft messages that make you feel good about yourself. Don’t try to convince people that you have the facts on your side. It doesn’t work.
Instead, think about the person you’re talking to. What do they believe? What’s important to them? What do they want? You might have to talk to them to answer those questions.
Help people get what they want, and they might put some emotional stock in what you believe. And without emotional connections, behavior change won’t happen. Facts don’t matter until after the emotional decision’s been made.
The FBI’s behavior change model is one approach. It involves five building block:
  • Active listening
  • Empathy
  • Rapport
  • Influence
  • Behavior Change

(Read more on Barking Up The Wrong Tree.)

That’s actually the model for getting anyone to do anything. It requires a willingness to communicate with people who don’t agree with you yet. It means thinking in their context, not yours.

Yes, effective behavior change takes more effort than slapping a disclaimer on a radio commercial or printing a warning on a pack of cigarettes. But scientific persuasion actually works.

Why Roy Blunt Needs a Psychologist

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Senator Roy Blunt (HA-57) proposed that all Obamacare ads contain a disclaimer: “Paid for by the American Taxpayer.”

I get the idea. I can’t stand it when my tax dollars buy ads intended to raise my taxes. It means I’m fighting against myself.

Still, I don’t like Senator Blunt’s plan because I think it could backfire.

The Psychology of Ownership

Right now, few people have a sense of ownership of Obamacare. Most taxpayers view the law as belonging to Obama and the Democrats. After all, not a single Republican voted for the law.

Ownership is a big deal, psychologically speaking. “Ownership” is “the possessive feeling that some object is ‘MINE’ or ‘OURS’ (Van Dyke and Pierce, 2002),” including both tangible (a house) and intangible (an idea) objects.

What’s more, when people develop a feeling of ownership of something, including an intangible object like Obamacare, they become protective of that object, and they value it more (Van Dyke and Pierce, 2002):

In sum, theory and research on the psychology of possession link feelings of ownership with positive attitudes about the target of ownership, the self-concept, and sense of responsibility for the target.

In this case. the “target” is Obamacare.

Will Blunt’s Disclaimer Cause People to Defend Obamacare?

I see a risk in Senator Blunt’s proposal to add a “paid for by taxpayers” disclaimer onto Obamacare commercials. As people absorb the message that they own Obamacare, they are less likely to reject the law as being someone else’s responsibility, and more likely to view the law, with all its fatal flaws, as a possession for which they are responsible.

Before jumping on-board Blunt’s plan, we need to ask: will telling people that they own the Obamacare ads–and, by association, Obamacare itself–create possessive feelings in people who currently feel antipathy or hostility toward the law?

Republicans Need to Study Psychology

The whole thing points to a bigger problem with conservative messaging.  Blunt’s disclaimer is just one manifestation of the aversion many conservatives and Republicans hold toward psychology.

Get over it.

Politics is all about psychology, especially the psychology of persuasion, irrationality, game theory, and behavioral economics–all subjects that tend to scare away the right.

But our aversion to the science of human emotion and behavior is killing us. By ignoring the effects on the human brain of messaging, color, images, shapes, voice, tone, sequence, and other factors, the right psychologically ignores a large swath of population.

The disclaimer idea feels good to us. It satisfies our emotions. But before we implement feel-good solutions, we need to consider what science tells us might be the relult.

In the case of Senator Blunt’s disclaimer on Obamacare ads, the  result could save the law from its current path to destruction.

The Tea Party Is 5 Years Old Today

Reading Time: 3 minutes

If you were out on the Arch steps on February 27, 2009, take a moment to consider what’s happened.

  • From near-spontaneous reaction to bailouts, corporate takeovers, and profligate government spending emerged the largest and most sustained political movement since the 1960s
  • Both the GOP and Democrat Party are minority parties, as independents have surged
  • A new generation identifies with libertarian ideals like freedom from government spying, freedom from failed wars on activities war was never meant to stop, insane spending, the opaque and manipulative Federal Reserve, government manipulation of information, IRS abuse of political groups, and Obamacare.
  • A massive turnover in the US House of Representatives
  • A massive turnover in state legislatures
  • Millions of politically dormant citizens are now political activists
  • New media stars are born

In 2009 and 2010, America’s left tried to discredit us. Remember? They called us racist haters. The assaulted us at rallies. They sent forth swarms of paid activists to infiltrate our events.

They thought we’d go away. We didn’t.

For your fortitude, I am honoured to know you, to have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with you at Russ Carnahans, at the Fed, at K&N, at SEIU Headquarters, at the Arch, and at Prop C rallies.

You should be proud.

At the same, we have to admit freedom has lost ground.

  • Obamacare is still the law
  • Barack Obama is still president
  • Obama has used executive orders to rule by decree like King George or a banana republic dictator
  • The military is being cut to pre-World War II levels
  • Red light cameras are going up
  • The FCC has plans to place government censors in newsrooms
  • The Department of Transportation plans to embed license plate readers in every road
  • The IRS continues to harass and bankrupt its political enemies
  • The Fed’s balance sheet is bigger than most countries’ GDP
  • Eric Holder has evaded prison and remains Attorney General
  • The GOP is still beholden to the US Chamber of Commerce
  • Missouri Republicans continue to push for Medicaid Expansion, prescription drug databases, and even more red light cameras
  • Just today, Obama asked the courts to give the NSA even more power to collect your phone records
  • The labor force participation rate has fallen to 1970s levels
  • More people have given up looking for work than ever before
  • And the list goes on

We have a lot of work to do. And, frankly, I’ve made a lot of mistakes. Too many times, I’ve taken the short cut when I should I have followed the longer plan. And I’ve put way too much emphasis on electoral politics and too little on personal persuasion.

It’s clear to me, now, that creating personal connections with people is the only way to fight that list of government wrongs. That means breaking away from our comfort zones and talking to people.

To help me overcome my weaknesses, I’ve begun the Center for Self-Governance’s 5-part course. The course helps people like me learn why it’s vital to recognize and use our power as human beings, endowed the ultimate power on earth.

We’re to use that power to train government to do our bidding, not the Chamber of Commerce’s or the NEA’s.

In my two classes, I’ve learned that shouting as politicians might slow America’s journey to perdition, but it won’t stop it. And it won’t win friends.

I’ve learned throwing myself into electoral politics my change the outcome of an election, but it won’t change the trajectory of history.

I’ve learned that political parties have no ideology, unless you consider the naked accumulation of power ideological. So working for a party only feeds the beast.

But I’ve also learned what I must do.

I’ve learned to treat politicians and government representatives as people, created by God, and deserving my respect.

I’ve learned that most politicians holding office have no idea what the right thing is, so they do what keeps them in power. It’s my job to teach them and encourage them.

I’ve learned that who holds office makes less difference than who exercises their power, and I haven’t been exercising my power very often or very effectively.

I’ve learned that I can apply what I already know about persuasion and influence and behavioral psychology to change the way politicians behave.

I’ve learned that I can influence a politician’s long-term behavior only by active listening, developing empathy, building rapport, earning the right to influence, and using that influence to drive behavior change.

To help me get better at exercising the power I already have, tonight I’m celebrating the tea party’s fifth anniversary at Heritage Action Skills Training. I hope you’ll be there, too.

P.S. You have exactly the same amount of power as Barack Obama and I have. We are created equal.

Note: I wrote this post on 2/26/2014 to publish on 2/27. But I live with rural internet, which isn’t too reliable. I lost service before I could I publish it, so I’m publishing now. 

Free Tickets For Heritage Action Skills Clinic Thursday **Only 20 Tix Left!**

Reading Time: 1

Ben Evans of Heritage Action has free tickets for his Activist Skills Training.

There are still tickets available to the Skills Clinic on Thursday, February 27: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/stl-skills-tickets-10683495623

Holding Congress accountable can be tough work. Whether you are new to the fight or a seasoned activist, the Heritage Action Skills Clinic will help you better engage Congress, so your voice can be heard.  Join fellow liberty-minded, conservatives for this FREE training as we provide the tools to take meaningful action.

Great Rivers Saloon

7529 Michigan Ave.

St. Louis, MO 63111

Thursday, February 27

6:30pm – 8:00pm

Registration starts at 6:00pm


-How to Use the Heritage Action Scorecard

-Introduction to the Sentinel Program

-Social Media Bootcamp including Twitter 101

Register Today for this FREE training and meet your Regional Coordinators, Ben Evans or Wade Miller, and other local conservatives in your community.

Elections are crucial, but the time between elections are when we must hold Congress accountable to the principles we hold dear.  Learn how to engage your elected officials in the most effective manner, and about the tools you will need to build those relationships.  It is never to late to hold Congress accountable!


Ben Evans

There’s no After Party this month so people are free to attend this important session.

Hurry. Tickets are limited and going fast.


5 Years Ago Today, The Tea Party Was Born On a Phone Call

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Give all due credit to Rick Santelli. His rant inspired a movement. But words don’t wear boots.

More images like this one available at Doctor Bulldog: http://doctorbulldog.wordpress.com/2009/02/27/st-louis-tea-party-by-the-arch/

At 7:00 pm on February 20, Mike Leahy, Eric Odom, Jenny Beth Martin, Michelle Moore, Brooks Bayne, and a few others hijacked the TCOT conference call to answer Santelli’s call for a Tea Party in Chicago.

Two days after that, I posted this on Hennessy’s View: St. Louis Tea Party?

Who’s up for it?

I’m thinking March 14 before the downtown St. Patrick’s Day parade.

  • Toss some tea into the Mississippi
  • Run 3.2 miles
  • Freeze for an hour
  • Drink some Jameson’s and Mich Ultra

If Seattle and Chicago can find enough patriots to oppose Obama’s socialization plans, St. Louis sure can.

Track progress here, on Facebook’s #dontgo group, or follow #dontgoand #teaparty on Twitter.

And, Look!  Someone’s written a recipe for a Tea Party.

How ’bout this;

Date:  Saturday, March 14, 10:00 a.m.  Friday, February 27, 11:00 AM
Where:  Steps of the Arch, Wharf Street
Bring:  5-10 friends, signs, and tea (but not in bags)
After Party:  Everywhere.

Here’s what happened.

St. Louis Tea Party February 27, 2009

Image clipped from http://doctorbulldog.wordpress.com/2009/02/27/st-louis-tea-party-by-the-arch/

Five years later, Democrats like Chuck Schumer consider the Tea Party the greatest threat to the political class. A lot of establishment Republicans feel the same.

They’re right.

Visibility was the Tea Party’s sole tool in 2009. Beginning February 27, at noon Eastern time, 50 tea party protests drew undue media coverage.

I say “undue,” because we dominated the national news on every network, talk radio left and right, and local news and talk in at least 50 major markets.

In St. Louis, between 1,000 and 1,500 people showed up on a cold day with snow flurries in the air. They came to the steps of the Arch with signs, flags, and even pitchforks, much to the dismay of the park rangers.

But visibility comes with a price. We were identified and vilified, by name, by association, by lies, and by innuendo. We were mocked and attacked, beaten, and stalked.

And we flipped 800 seats in Congress and state legislatures in 2010.

I said visibility has a price. But getting punched in the gut steels resolve.

We may not be as visible as we were, but we’re more effective at driving change than we were in 2009 or 2010. We may not be winning elections, but some of us getting better at winning little battles. As Marc Herr says, we’re creating Mrs. Powells.

Mrs. Powell was the woman who asked Benjamin Franklin, “What have you wrought us? A republic or a monarchy?” Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Mrs. Powell was, of course, a woman. As a woman in 1789, she could not vote, she could not hold public office. She couldn’t even own real property. How in God’s name could such a person with no rights keep a republic?

Because she had power. She all the power God gives to man. She had the power of persuasion, influence, and obstruction. And she used it throughout her life. Mrs. Powell kept her republic.

Have you?

Tonight, Michael Patrick Leahy led a few of us on a stroll down memory lane with one his patented, brilliant conference calls. He asked me what America will look like in 5 years from now.

My answer was simple: freer. I see a generation forming that believes in itself. It believes it alone has the power to make the world better. It distrusts large institutions–big banks, big business, big labor, and big government. It wants to be left alone to solve its problems. If the rest of us get some relief along the way, all the better.

This generation is a Hero generation, much like the WWII generation credited with saving our republic in the Depression and the big war.

If you want to be a Mrs. Powell, forget about your rights. Use your power. You can sharpen your power at Heritage Action Skills Training on the 5th anniversary of the first St. Louis Tea Party, February 27, 2014.

Click here for all the details and to get your free ticket. Only 48 tickets remain.