(Note: This article is written with great respect to Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”)
“But what would I say? Last time I reached out, they took advantage of me, and I get mad every time I think of it! Besides, they don’t trust me any more than I trust them. What could I possibly say?”
Hopelessness. Confusion. Defiance. These I hear from every corner of Conservatism, as most respond with skepticism to my pleas for unity. Are they angry? Oh yes, but there’s much more. They’re afraid. Almost doomed. Exhausted from years of trading blame, they wonder aloud, “Can America really end this way? Is the Right beyond repair? What can we say?”
To the Tea Party, “Establishment,” Christian Right, and Moderates, I hereby offer a service that is well above my pay grade and beyond my talents—but too necessary to leave undone. I will attempt to write your lines for you. No, not all of them—just enough to get the ball rolling. In Part 1, I outlined how we stop being victims with the first three of Covey’s “7 Habits.” Here in Part 2, I’ll briefly adapt Covey’s next trio. And in Part 3, I’ll write out each message itself, closing with the all-important 7th Habit.
Here are Habits 4, 5, and 6:
Habit 4: Think Win-Win
Whether negotiating in business, personal relationships, or a political party, we should seek solutions that represent a win for each side. Sound unrealistic? On the contrary, it’s the only realistic solution.
Look at business. Suppose you seek win-lose with your customers, constantly taking more money than the value you return. Is that sustainable? Of course not; you’ll lose customers. Then suppose you seek lose-win, playing the martyr as you give away the store. Does that work? Again, it’s unsustainable, since competitors will make higher profits, build more capital, and wait you out (yet, some people demand American oil companies charge less than global market value…). The only realistic strategy is win-win, where you insist upon satisfied results for both parties.
This is true in relationships, community groups, or political parties. Consider marriage: For me, if my wife doesn’t win in a “negotiation” (to use business terms), then I feel it’s a loss, since she’s more important than the situation itself. Likewise, Conservatives should think, “Even if I win control of the party and you lose, I’ll consider it a loss because I failed to provide you a win.” This runs against current thinking, but what other method is sustainable? Division? How’s that working?
“Think Win-Win” is not a gimmick, but a realistic commitment. Just as “Be Proactive” unleashes individuals, “Think Win-Win” unleashes relationships.
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
This is the Habit of listening, not just hearing words. Oftentimes, two sides will only listen to one another while planning their responses, resulting in fruitless debates. But Habit 5 restructures the process, asking us to first listen responsively, even trying to restate their position better. Try it sometime. Sure, you want to be understood, but try setting that aside and making others’ points with them—listening without planning your reply. Then get ready. Experiencing what Dr. Covey calls, “Emotional Air,” some will almost appear to breathe easy for the first time. The weirdest part? It even helps with adversaries.
I manage at a business with great patrons. Sometimes, though, a few can be emotional and combative, even emboldened by alcohol. I don’t mind. Dozens of employees have commented on how I lower tensions; stopping fights and calming complaints. My secret? Habit 5. Emotional Air. Just help people feel understood, and they’ll relax. Many even thank me for the respect I’ve shown while I’m asking them to leave. It’s crazy.
Within the Right, we should replace internal debates with discussions; because we debate to win, but we discuss to learn. Seek first to understand, my friends. And oddly enough, the more we learn from people, the more influence we gain with them—and that is the greatest win-win of all.
Habit 6: Synergize
Most folks see teamwork like this: 1 person’s efforts + 1 person’s efforts = two people’s production. Thus, 1+1=2. Some view it more negatively as grudging compromise, wherein 1+1=1½. But with Synergy, we realize that 1+1 can equal 3, 7, 20, or even 10,000. Why? Because having applied Habits 1-5, we can now capitalize on what once limited us--our differences.
When opposed, our differences produce division; but when united, our differences produce diversity—a very good thing. (Note: I speak of rightwing chosen diversity, not leftwing forced diversity) Surrounded by diverse thought, rightwingers grow in knowledge, strategy, skills—all with increased marketing reach. For instance: Social moderates reach people who ignore Christian Conservatives like me, and vice versa. Likewise, national security hawks and doves reach entirely different audiences. So, 1+1=10,000.
Don’t believe me? Try an ultra-combative example: Abortion. Do pro-life Conservatives like me benefit from pro-choice Conservatives? Yes, in every way!
- First, the opposing views of pro-choice Conservatives sharpen my reasoning in safe settings, which is far better than getting mauled in public debate.
- Pro-choice Conservatives draw more people to a party where voices like mine are freely heard—thus expanding my audience.
- They support school choice, freeing parents to have kids taught in surroundings more aligned with their values.
- They almost always reject extremes like late-term abortion or forcing pro-lifers to pay taxes toward personal choices they oppose. This softens the public toward further pro-life reasoning.
This is how we Synergize. Transformed from divided to diverse by Habits 1-5, we learn faster, reach further, and produce more than we ever thought possible.
I’m often asked how I can work with “those Tea Partiers” or “those Establishment types” or—most often for a Christian like me—“those Social Liberals.”
My answer? I LOVE working with them, provided they unite around Individual Liberty. The reason is simple: I want the freedom to live my life, not force it on others, as this reflects my Christian faith. Nowhere in Scripture are we called to make others live like us, for there is no Christian Jihad. We Christians are called to offer and model our views, not impose them. I’m proud of that! So to, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People are designed for those wanting to unleash themselves and others, not for people wanting to control those around them. We want everyone’s potential fulfilled.
If you share this desire, and are sensing some shred of hope in uniting the Right, stay tuned for Part 3.