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What I Learned About Communication (from helping an emerging ecological party)

[time to read: 10 minutes]

I’ve always steered clear of politics. But recently, I found myself drawn into something different – a fresh new political party that’s shaking things up. They’re all about practical ecology and democratic renewal, using a science-backed, non-dogmatic approach. It’s like they’re painting a picture of our world, dreaming up what we want it to be, and then identifying what needs to be done to make it happen.

In our super divided political scene, they’re like a breath of fresh air – and even though they’re still tiny, I think they’re really important because they’re showing a different way of doing politics that could actually solve environmental problems. 

So for ten days, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and dive into their world. I hit the streets, handing out leaflets and chatting with anyone who’d listen about their ideas. It was a total crash course in grassroots politics for me. And let me tell you, I learned a ton.

Promoting Ideas Is Challenging

When I approached people, I chose to focus on promoting ideas that could bring people together.

In my life, I’ve done tons of sales: I’ve sold physical products and services, to retail customers, to small companies, to large companies, I thought, I’ve seen it all. So I told myself, ‘How hard could that be? Promoting ideas is like sales except that no one has to spend any money. So it should be easy!’. 

Oh boy. Turns out that selling ideas is a totally different game – and it’s damn hard …

The challenge lies in the fact that when you campaign and try to promote ideas, you interact with diverse audiences with diverse worldviews. 

Ideas are better understood when supported with real-life examples, but when you talk to random strangers on the street, you know nothing about their lives, experiences, or current state of mind.

Of course, it was really tempting to go the easy route and play the blame game, disparaging the other candidates or criticising their programs or what their parties did wrong in the past. 

But I refused to fall into this trap. Finger-pointing might be easier, but it’s not the way to truly connect with people or drive meaningful change.

Why We Avoid the Blame Game

Promoting ideas is not just about influencing opinions. 

Ideally, it’s about engaging people, helping them grasp complex issues, work towards solutions that benefit everyone, and ultimately, motivate them to take action. 

This approach is challenging, but it’s far more effective than resorting to blame.

Finger-pointing and blame lead to even more division – and we don’t need more resentment, anger, or frustration. 

Plus, the blame tactic fails to take responsibility for action.

When you put the blame for a problem on someone else, it becomes out of your control and there’s nothing you can do about it. So you end up not taking action – which, by the way, fuels anger and frustration.

Consider how we discuss greenhouse gas emissions. We could say: ‘We need to develop mechanisms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while ensuring less developed countries can still meet their development needs.’ Alternatively, we might say: ‘India consumes a lot of coal, which emits high levels of carbon dioxide, so there’s nothing we can do to solve the issue.’

Both statements acknowledge the problem, but their impacts differ dramatically. 

The first approach empowers ‘us’ to take collective action and find solutions. It recognizes the complexity of the issue and the need for balanced solutions. 

The second approach, however, points fingers at a specific country and leads to inaction by suggesting the problem is not solvable by us. So we are left feeling disempowered.

This example shows why I always try to avoid the blame game. It doesn’t solve problems; it only creates division and discourages action. 

By refusing to engage in finger-pointing, we keep the focus where it should be: on finding solutions together.

Leveraging The Power of Positivity

I’ve already discussed why I don’t like the ‘doom and gloom’ approach. I think it’s simply not very productive. 

When I face a challenge, I’d much rather focus on what’s possible. Maybe it’s because I’m an entrepreneur (or maybe it’s just how my brain is wired) – I always tackle issues with a designer’s mindset, approaching problems the same way I handle design challenges.

It’s simple. First, figure out what we’re trying to achieve. Then, identify what’s holding us back. Finally, ask ourselves, “Okay, given these constraints (i.e. parameters), how do we design the best solution?”

What I love about this process is how it shifts our focus. Instead of getting bogged down in what’s wrong, we’re looking at where we want to end up.

When we start imagining solutions, it’s like a workout for our creative muscles. We’re not wasting time dwelling on obstacles. Instead, we’re dreaming up new paths forward and figuring out how to build them.

And you know what? This approach isn’t just for design. You can use it for pretty much any challenge that comes your way. It’s like a positivity booster that gets your creative juices flowing. Suddenly, problems aren’t just problems anymore – they’re opportunities to innovate and create a better future.

Trust me, once you start thinking this way, you’ll see possibilities everywhere. It’s a game-changer.

How Positivity Turns Problems Into Possibilities

In my campaigning adventure, I tried this positivity approach in action. 

You know what I realized? People connect way better with everyday stuff than with big, abstract ideas. So, I started chatting about common issues we all face at home. Let me share one that got people talking – it’s about our kitchens!

Many of us have kitchens filled with appliances we barely use or just once a year. We want to have them because they enable us to cook beautiful meals, but it’s an inefficient use of resources. 

So, let’s reframe the question: ‘How can we create beautiful meals using kitchen appliances in a way that isn’t wasteful?’

By focusing on the desired outcome (diverse cooking capabilities) and the parameters (more appliances leads to more waste), we can envision creative solutions. 

One possibility that came up during our discussions, is a community kitchen appliance library where people share tools. This not only addresses the original problem but also offers an unexpected benefit: it allows communities to build stronger ties around common goals. 

This solution is practical and engages almost everyone right away.

By shifting our focus from the obstacles to the possibilities, we open doors to solutions we might not have considered otherwise.

Finding Common Ground

Finding common ground is key when discussing politics. We need to build bridges, not walls. This is particularly important when engaging with people who seem to disagree with you completely..

Here’s the thing: we often think everyone cares about the same stuff we do. But that’s not true. People’s priorities are shaped by their unique experiences and values. 

So, when you’re chatting with someone, be curious. Ask questions. And listen. Really. Really listen to understand their perspective. Look for shared values or goals. 

You probably both want a better future for your community, even if you disagree on how to get there. These connection points can be the foundation for real dialogue and problem-solving opportunities.

Respect is crucial. Even if someone’s view seems crazy to you, remember it comes from their life experiences. Don’t dismiss or mock their ideas. 

Try to understand where they’re coming from. You don’t have to agree, but keeping an open mind can lead to more productive conversations.

People naturally connect with familiar ideas. So when you’re explaining complex ideas, try linking it to everyday experiences. Talking about economic policies? You can compare it to household budgeting. It makes your points more relatable.

By doing this, we create a space where different viewpoints can coexist and even complement each other. 

It’s not about compromising your beliefs, but about understanding others better. 

Listening And Walking The Path Together

Alright, so you’ve found some common ground. Great! Now it’s time to really listen and learn together. This isn’t about lecturing – it’s about having a real conversation (both ways).

First off, let people tell their stories. Everyone’s got experiences that shape how they see things. When you hear these stories, you start to get why they think the way they do. It’s eye-opening – trust me.

It’s like if you’re talking about climate change with someone who’s skeptical – don’t jump straight to complex solutions. Start with stuff they can already experience, like changes in local weather patterns and how it affects their holidays.

Then you can walk a step further and chat about food security, for example. Instead of getting all doom and gloom about “What will we eat in 20 years?”, talk about community gardens or reducing food waste. These are things people can act on right now, just like those holidays observations about climate change.

And hey, try to steer clear of super controversial stuff. It just puts people on the defensive. Keep it practical and solution-focused. Ask questions like, “How can we make sure everyone in our town has access to good food in the future?” It gets people thinking and problem-solving, instead of just arguing.

Remember, we’re not trying to win debates here. We’re trying to understand each other better and figure out how to make things better. Keep it real, keep it practical, and you’d be surprised at how much progress you can make.

Main Takeaways From This Experience For Your Creative Business

This has been quite a ride! I initially thought I’d be the one helping this group of changemakers with my experience, but in fact, was I in for a surprise. Instead, I’ve learned so much about getting ideas across and really connecting with people. It wasn’t always smooth sailing, but it was definitely worth it.

So, what did this crash course in idea-promotion teach me? Well, quite a bit actually. Let me summarize the key takeaways I picked up along the way:

  1. Engage people by helping them understand and act, not just influencing them.
  2. Use real-life examples to explain ideas to diverse audiences.
  3. Avoid the blame game. It leads to division and inaction.
  4. Frame issues positively can inspire teamwork and progress.
  5. Focus on possibilities, not obstacles.
  6. Use a designer’s mindset to find creative solutions.
  7. Turn problems into opportunities for innovation.
  8. Find common ground, especially with those who disagree.
  9. Listen actively, share stories, and keep it practical and relatable.

The most important lessons I’ve learned are that positivity is a powerful tool for problem-solving and that finding common ground is essential for productive conversations. By focusing on possibilities and shared values, we can work together to create the future we want to see.

These lessons don’t just apply to politics – they’re valuable for entrepreneurs seeking to make a difference with their businesses. Whether you’re developing a new product, building partnerships, or promoting your brand, approaching challenges with a positive, solution-oriented mindset and seeking to understand others can lead to incredible results.

Remember, as an entrepreneur, you have the power to shape the world through your business. Embrace these lessons and apply them to your daily operations, marketing strategies, and interactions with customers and stakeholders. By doing so, you’ll not only achieve your business goals but also contribute to building a more positive and sustainable future for all.