I grew up reading comic books wanting to be a superhero. Comics taught me that those who speak the truth are heroes, all the rest are liars.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Politics 101: Rules #1 thru #4

This year has been a great year for people to get involved in politics. Back in 2004 I became actively involved. There are no books to read giving you tips and tricks at this game called politics, so for the new folks I would like to share lessons I have learned over the past 4 years. I am in no way an expert, I am still being taught lessons (as recently as last weekend). But I think if I can help anyone whose interested in being involved - it will be all worth it.

Rule #1: People in Politics are Political (3P)

This is a no brainier (right?). Everyone has a reason their involved and some have an agenda. The moment you loose sight of rule #1 is the moment you'll be rudely awoken to its reality. I forget this rule quite a lot and pay the price. But you live and learn. This rule isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's just something to be aware of. Most people will let you know what their agenda is, if they don't ask them "why are you involved in politics?", "What made you want to serve on the board?", etc. The people you need to keep an eye on are those without an answer (or without a good answer - believable) to this question. These individuals may have a hidden agenda.

Action Tips:
1. Be positive.
2. Avoid those that are consistently negative.
3. Stay out of cliques.
4. Be open minded.
5. Be open and honest.
6. When you forget rule #1 and get taken by surprise - dust yourself off and chalk it up as a lesson learned.

Rule #2: Sometimes those with power are controlling.

You may run into individuals or groups of people serving on boards, committees, commissions or other outlets who try to control everything. Most times you will easily be able to tell who these people are. I haven't yet seen any good come from this tactic. Even when it looks like it's a good thing, it impedes democracy. For the individuals or groups that do this, it makes life hard for themselves and everyone else around them (you included). Now I have to admit that at one point I was a little controlling myself, but I learned from it. It is not a good thing for anyone. You do have the ability to block some of the power these individuals or groups have.

Action Tips:
1. Learn Robert's Rules. Most boards and political bodies are governed by Robert's Rules of Order. The more you know about these rules, the more power you will have to combat those controlling things.
2. Build coalitions.
3. Voice any opposition you have clearly, calmly and respectfully. This is important. People will generally be more open to you if you present yourself in this manner.
4. Get assistance and/or guidance from individuals outside of your particular group, board, etc.

Rule #3: Don't quit!

You are involved for a reason! Don't let anyone discourage you enough to make you quit. If you're new and haven't been contacted by those above you - make some noise! Don't let people or situations EVER get to the point where it drives you out. The best thing you can do to combat a negative person or situation is OUTLAST it!!!! Now there are times when you should quit. But make sure you quit under your own terms (again don't let a person or situation force you out).

Action Tips:
1. Don't quit.
2. If you need assistance speak up and out.
3. Don't let a person or situation drive you out.
4. Stay true to the reason you're involved. If it was important enough to get involved initially, it should be important enough to see it through.
5. If you need to quit (can't make it to meetings, personal problems, etc.) do so. But again do not quit over anybody or anything!!!

Rule #4: Have FUN!!!

Life is too short to be serious all of the time, so have FUN! Use the opportunity of being politically involved to make friends. The more fun you have the more positive people you'll attract.

Action Tips:
1. Socialize!
2. Show interest in others - ask people questions about themselves (people love talking about themselves).
3. Hang around with positive people.
4. Smile!
5. Be inclusive - a party of one is no party.

Watch for more rules!

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