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Thursday, February 17, 2010

Those Darn Dissidents; How to Respond

Known as a relatively liberal newspaper, The New York Times had a stream of Facebook responses bashing the Republican Tea Party following the paper's post of its expose': Tea Party Movement Lights Fuse for Rebellion on Right - http://nyti.ms/b5XdOE . Many responses were entertaining and educational; such as the post in which fun was made of the current day Tea-Partiers who seemingly do not know the history of the original Tea Party, but are quite interested in whether Americans speak English. (Ironic since the original protest was against the British government from which English was imported to the U.S.) And there was plenty of criticism about the education and capabilities of Tea Party members. No surprise coming from a New York Times crowd.

The shocker was when one uber-educated, Georgetown and Oberlin, Facebooker gave credence to the Party. Although also identifying with the liberal crowd, his post went without response for a long spell in Facebook time.
Eric Hochstein
This is an important article which describes clearly the thinking behind, and positioning of, a growing "movement" in the US which has the potential of creating unprecedented regression in the US. These people are passionate, though misguided, committed, though misinformed, and driven, though going backwards. Their vision of America is from decades past, and without awareness of the significant changes which are taking place - with or without our approval and direction - and which we must recognize and deal with, not avoid and ignore. They want an America in a dream world that will never reappear. Yikes.

Why?

Mr. Hochstein's suggestion was to evaluate the Tea Party realistically and then respond. What? Not ignore those who disagree with us? That's the American way isn't it? It might be, but it's not the best way.

When people, and especially people in organizations, do not know how to effectively deal with dissident thought, behavior and organization, they make by far one of the biggest mistakes in organizational life.

My research on participant entry (engagement) in two-way communication *  revealed a stunning result: dissidents have something to say and given the opportunity; will voice an opinion - even if their contribution might reach the critiqued organization.

So how do we "deal with," as Mr. Hochstein writes, "misguided" foes?

1. Recognize that our opposition has something to contribute whether we like what or how they say it.

2. Take a note from Katie Paine, http://twitter.com/kdpaine, who on a recent Twitter post said it simply, "Goals drive metrics." By reminding ourselves of our organizational goals, which should include ways to build constituent support (building our base), we may also find ways to reinforce our resources.

3. The hardest step of all - listen to what the opposition has to say ... even if we think it's garbage. We might be surprised by what we find out, such as another tidbit I learned from my survey: some people are just angry because they feel disenfranchised from the norm. Why not bring outsiders into the fold or adjust the fold to fit them in? Organizational adaptation, which is different from conceding, is key to success.

Finally, if we don't offer a platform to our opposition, someone else will, and as the New York Times article indicates, that platform might be very public.

*For my University of Minnesota graduate school thesis, Dialogic Communication and Participant Entry, © 2009.

Comment from reader:
"You're right. Listen to the conservatives, understand their motivations, for that's the only way to get into their minds. I like what you have so far for a webpage. Keep it up. I'm proud of you for striving to make a change one mind at a time."
Ted

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