Y’all probably know who Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) is. And while he and I – and most likely, you and he – have very little in common politically or philosophically, he didn’t become Senate Majority Leader for nothing…and we can all learn an important lesson from him. Here’s the story:
Two weeks ago I was in Washington, DC, for the annual CPAC conference – the oldest, largest and grandest of conservative get-togethers in the country (you should go next year!). And on the way home, as luck/fate would have it, my connecting flight out of Phoenix put me in the seat immediately behind and just across the aisle from Sen. Reid towards the front of the plane.
Now, in the 20+ years that I’ve been doing politics here in Nevada, I’ve never met the Senator personally. But being respectful of his time and privacy, I waited until after our flight landed in Las Vegas to tap him on the shoulder and introduce myself. The brief exchange was both cordial and professional. We shared a laugh at the expense of a certain politician who neither of us much cares for…and that was it.
Or at least I thought it was.
A couple days later an envelope of the type a wedding invitation normally comes in arrived with a “United States Senate” return address. In it was a hand-written 3×5 card from Sen. Reid. Here’s the text:
“Thank you for your introduction yesterday on the flight from D.C. Even tho we disagree on some political issues, I have always admired your speaking as you feel. Many only say what is non-controversial & wind up saying nothing. This is not you! It is good you care enough to stay involved in the political process. Sincerely, Harry.”
Now, I have to tell you…that’s impressive.
No matter how much you may disagree with the man; that the Senate Majority Leader of the United States Senate – arguably the most powerful Democrat in the country today, including the President – would take the time to send a handwritten note to a lowly political rival is both extremely thoughtful…and exceptionally smart politically.
Will this card change my beliefs or opposition to Sen. Reid’s agenda and philosophy? No. But on the other hand, it’s MUCH HARDER to be “mean” to someone who has been so kind to you. And THIS is why campaigns are MUCH more about psychology & marketing than politics.
SIDENOTE: If you haven’t yet read “Influence” by Prof. Robert Cialdini, go get it!
So take a lesson from Sen. Reid. Buy yourself a stack of these types of cards from your local drug store, stationary store or WalMart.
Better yet, have a box of them – with matching envelopes – printed up with just your name at the top and your return address imprinted on the envelopes. And use a soft, earth-tone color, not an astro-bright color. You want to project a classy, professional image.
Then start writing and mailing. Every person you meet, try to get their mailing address. Ask for a business card. Potential donor. Potential voter. Potential volunteer. Member of the media. Community leader. Party boss. And ESPECIALLY…political rivals.
Trust me, if you look hard enough you can always find something positive to say about just about anyone. Seriously, if Sen. Reid could find a way to say something positive to an active and extremely vocal 20-year opponent after a 3-minute exchange in the aisle of an airplane…you can, too.