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Published August 02, 2011 in Talking Points by Sharon Harris
This may be The First Rule of Libertarian Communication: Don't turn people off to libertarianism. Don't ruin a potential recruit. Don't leave him or her with a distaste for libertarians and libertarianism.
It usually takes people several exposures to a new idea before they are willing to seriously consider it and embrace it. (In fact, if they adopt it too quickly, without reflection, they may abandon it just as quickly when the next new idea comes along.)
So when you meet people new to libertarianism, it's not your job to convert them in one session. Though it could happen, it probably won't. Resist the temptation to browbeat them, to argue, to grab them by the lapels and convince them of every detail of your views. (I know, it's hard to resist sometimes! But try.)
Your goal as a libertarian communicator in most of these situations is simply to make a good impression and provide some useful and intriguing information. Smile. Listen to their concerns. Offer some good ideas. Find what issues are important to your listeners, and agree with them whenever you honestly can. Show them you're a good person who shares their concerns (remember the Ransberger Pivot). Leave them with a few of those pocket-sized copies of the World's Smallest Political Quiz that you always carry with you. (Quiz cards are designed so each is a self-contained outreach kit, and they're available online from the Advocates Liberty Store.)
Then, the next time this person encounters libertarian ideas -- in a letter to the editor, on TV or radio, or in person -- he will remember his first encounter pleasantly, and will be better prepared to explore these ideas further.
You want him to think along these lines: "That libertarian guy I met last month was pleasant and interesting, and his ideas were intriguing. I agreed with a lot of what he had to say. And now here's another good idea from a libertarian. I need to look more deeply into libertarianism."
This may sound like a simple tip. But believe me: it is crucial. When you identify yourself to someone as a libertarian, you instantly become, for that person, the public face of the whole libertarian movement.
Many, many people have been permanently turned off to libertarian ideas simply because the first libertarian they encountered acted in a way they found offensive, or presented the ideas in ways they found objectionable or obnoxious. And that's a tragedy.
First, Do No Harm. That's great advice for doctors -- and libertarian communicators, too.
Get tips and suggestions from Sharon Harris along with experts Michael Cloud, Mary Ruwart, and David Bergland with The Very Best Ways You Can Communicate Libertarian Ideas - Panel Discussion.