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You’re Mad As Hell – I Know. Now Use It To Win.
10 Rules For Using Your Anger As An Asset To Winning
By: Michael Berry
Howard Beale’s speech in the movie Network was a fine moment in cinematic history. The frustrated newsman, about to lose his job, was frustrated over the state of the country, and he gave voice to our national discontent by encouraging viewers to go to the window, stick their heads out, and announce, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore.” Watching Barack Obama and the Democrats every day, we’ve all felt this way.
We no longer trust the politicians to fix our country’s problems, even in our own party, because many lack a spine, and some don’t truly share our willingness to do what it takes.
We are mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore. We want to persuade others to join us in this cause.
We’ve grown tired of liberals and their politics, their policies, and their playground tactics. We don’t care if they call us racists, sexists, or use any of their silly terms against us.
We’ve seen the media campaign for Obama. We’ve seen them slant the news, and insult those of us who truly love this country. We know the media has an outsized influence in this country, particularly when our neighbors still think they are objective. We’ve watched them insult our faith, our military, and our peaceful protests against liberal tyranny. We’ve watched black racists cry racism, we’ve witnessed their divisive ways, and we know all to well this has to be stopped. We are mad, and we’ve been mad, and it builds daily. We’ve not succumbed to hopelessness, we’ve instead gotten mad and resolved to do something about it. As James Russell Lowell said, “When people are sad, they don’t do anything about it. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about change.” We are angry, and we are ready to bring change.
If, though, we let our anger crowd out our message, we lose our ability to bring about change. You know that guy with his Terrible Towel, who obnoxiously roots for the Steelers solely for the purpose of irritating everyone else? Nobody starts rooting for the Steelers because of him. In fact, folks root against the Steelers because of that guy. We can’t be “that guy” as activists. We can’t let the expression of our anger defeat our message.
I read emails daily from folks who want the best for our country. They read the Constitution, they follow conservative columnists like Michelle Malkin, they listen to Rush Limbaugh, they watch Fox News. The more they know, the madder they get. The madder they get, the less effective they become at persuading others. Their efforts come off as angry, and the Left uses this perception to marginalize them with independent voters.
Most independent voters are busy watching football, playing golf, filling out their fantasy leagues, or reading celebrity gossip of breakups and affairs and arrests. We have to break through the nonsense, we have to deliver the truth to people who otherwise wouldn’t get it. We can’t force them to be as interested, or informed, or outraged, as we are.
With the noblest of intentions, we set out to bring light to the darkness. Often, we fail. In many cases, we drive people away, and lose elections we should win. I’ll try to offer some simple guidelines for how we can be more successful in our efforts, and in our country. Here goes.
1. Logic is persuasive, anger isn’t. Manage your anger. Use it as an internal motivator, but never use it to persuade others. Trying to inflame others as you have been is not a long-term winner. Win their minds, not just their hearts. It is difficult to sustain anger, but persuading folks to understand the errors of liberalism will inspire them to bring real change over a longer period of time. When you read something that infuriates you, there is a natural urge to pass it on, so others can see it also. Resist that. Save it, and come back to it in a day. If it’s worthy of being forwarded, you still can. See rule seven below, you’re not the Associated Press, you’re not trying to break news. You’re trying to help people understand why they need to vote against Obama; or, if they are already there, you need to inspire them so they actually do go and vote. Salesmen are charming, not angry. You be, too.
2. Keep your eye on the prize at all times. Remember your mission is to win, not to vent about your anger. This isn’t therapy. For some reason some of your friends don’t see what is going on in this country, but you do. In order to get through to them, you have to be sure you are not letting your own caustic language, loose cannon of opinions, or venting spleen get in the way of the end goal, which is to spur others to think and then act. Remember, before you hit the send button, ask yourself: should I send this? Am I sending it to help change the country? Is it really an important issue, or just another of the indignities visited on this country that could be combined with another email?
3. Credibility is everything, never sacrifice it. Why is anyone going to listen to what you have to say? You may be smarter than they are, but they probably don’t believe that. Why are they going to read what you forward? Is anyone sitting in front of their computer waiting for more emails to read? They have too many things to read as it is. So why would they listen to you, and why would they read what you send? Because they trust you. They respect you. If this is true, then you are in a position to make a difference. That trust and respect is to be earned, not demanded. They have to know that every email you forward, every comment you post, is thoughtful, and accurate. Before you forward an email, take twenty minutes to check to see if it is accurate. Just because you hope it’s true doesn’t make it so. Do some checking, give it some thought. Does it seem reasonable? Do you actually believe it, or do you just want to? Has it been reported elsewhere? Has a reputable source reported on it, or is just part of an underground of people who forward everything they get? Is it something that you are sending to persuade, or to amuse? Will the result be to make the next recipient want to vote, or take action?
4. Less is more. Sending multiple emails every day with exclamation marks and “the sky is falling” messages eventually wears down your recipients. “We got it, things are bad, stop sending me this crap”, they’ll say. Or they’ll block you and never tell you. The more subjects on which you are incredulous, the less effect it has. Pick your issue, one that is both important and likely to persuade. There is no harm done in not forwarding an email. Ask yourself, if tomorrow Barack Obama did the worst thing of his presidency, and I send an email to my list or post to my Facebook or Twitter page, would my friends understand that what he’s done is far worse than everything else? Or would they just see it as part of a long line of communication from you claiming everything is horrible? Prioritize, pick the big issues not the petty ones, and communicate less. Less will be more effective, which should be the only goal. Yes, some issues will not be covered, but those that are will have a bigger impact.
5. Fewer is better. When it comes to words, follow the old speech-giving advice: be brief and be seated. If you ask whether 50 or 500 words is better, 50 every time. When I see an email with ten paragraphs, I just delete it without reading it. Who has time for that? Meetings shouldn’t drag on, nor should emails or Facebook posts. Twitter’s popularity is largely due to its restriction to 140 characters. Get right to the point, quickly, simply, and without indulging your own sense of importance and love of spewing wordy pronouncements. If someone only spent fifteen seconds on your message, would they get the point? Are you really expecting anyone to spend the 10 minutes on your message it would require to read? If you’re going to forward an awesome Youtube video of a speech, quickly tell what it is and why they should watch. If the clip is twenty-eight minutes long, they won’t watch it. Tell them the part of it they need to watch, and for how long (shorter is better), and why (e.g., “this is a speech by Ronald Reagan about how higher taxes actually lose money for the government. The important part is about the 5:20 mark of the video, and lasts for about 30 seconds”). Don’t forward links without a quick explanation. Very few folks will open it. Some will worry maybe you got hacked, and this is the spam that was sent out on your account. They’ll worry that clicking on the link will help spread the virus.
6. Know your audience: who they are, and what they want. Put yourself into their shoes before you send something. Are they going to receive it and be persuaded? Do I have to know as much as you do about the issue, or be as gung-ho to vote Republican, in order to appreciate the story? For some reason your friends aren’t ready to vote as you want them to, or they believe as you do but won’t do anything about it. They don’t already share your emotions and your mindset. Persuading them will require you always think as they do, and not just as you do. For instance, you may enjoy reading about politics all day, and getting emails about it throughout the day. Many people do not, so don’t wear them out. Share only the best stories or opinions. There are really two reasons you are sharing your opinions with others: either to convince them to vote as you want, of if they’re already convinced then to get them more active. Don’t confuse the two. For the first group, you have to be more patient, you have to explain things more clearly, and you cannot insult them by suggesting they are idiots if they don’t already know what you are sending or come to the same conclusion. For the second – those who feel as you do, but don’t get very involved – you can share more stories and opinions, but you still shouldn’t overdo it. Offer them advice on how to get more involved, but don’t talk down to them. Honestly assess how you are perceived by those to whom you are sharing your thoughts, and be sure you are persuading them, not amusing or irritating them.
7. Be right, not first. You should never be the first to break a story. You can be last, every time, but always be right and never traffic in half-truths or viral nonsense. A truly effective news story will still be powerful after it has been confirmed, but jumping out in front of a story that turns out to be wrong once other details emerge will permanently damage your credibility. The rush to break news in the twenty-four hour news cycle has embarrassed formerly respected news agencies time and again. They are no longer respected, which opens the door for you. Only weigh in when you’re sure. Rushing to judgment can leave you embarrassed and, more importantly, will hurt your critical credibility. More people are basing their opinions on those they know personally and trust, and fewer are still listening to the news agencies they no longer trust.
8. If you don’t fully understand the issue, and believe in it, don’t share it. Just because you have a random thought, or heard about something but didn’t get all the details, doesn’t mean you need to blast that out to everyone. Spend some time researching the issue. Actually know what you’re talking about. Imagine you are a doctor, and others are expecting your opinion on their medical issue to carry weight. Do some research, seek out what has been written by reputable sources, and be sure you are right. Then proceed. If you ever start an email “I don’t know if this is true, but I wanted to share it” – don’t send it.
9. Don’t cannibalize the cause. Conservatives are so angry with what is happening in our country that too often we turn on those around us. We have plenty of folks with whom we disagree, we don’t need to make enemies out of our friends. You don’t like something someone said, who is working toward the same goals you are? Let it go. You weren’t asked to chair the event, but merely to help organize it? Lower your head and work harder. It wasn’t supposed to be about you, was it?
10. Don’t argue with liberals. It’s not a sport. It reduces your credibility, and it wastes your resources. I’ve saved perhaps the most important issue for last here. If you spend your time on Facebook arguing with Democrats, hoping to score points, you are wasting your time. Imagine this election was a battle, and some of our troops left the battle to go skirmish with another country for a spell? These efforts leave you exhausted and unfulfilled. Liberals don’t lack information or opinion. They perceive it differently, and always will. Thinking you are being clever by jabbing at them is not productive. It’s a distraction from convincing the undecided and motivating the convinced. It is a self-indulgent waste of your precious resources, and it doesn’t help us win. Remember, as noted above, you are trying to convince those who’ve not made up their minds, and motivate those who have. People will argue with you because they are liberals are not part of either group. Your time spent amusing yourself by trying to humiliate them is distracting you from what is important. Mark Twain famously advised “never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.”
Michael Berry is a talk show host based in Houston, broadcasting from his flagship KTRH (740 AM). His website is www.MichaelBerry.iHeart.com. His show also airs on Portland’s KEX, Baton Rouge’s WJBO, San Antonio’s WOAI and Nashville’s WLAC. This excerpt is from his forthcoming book, a how-to guide for political activists.