Monday, September 28, 2015

100 Things I Want to Tell My Children and Grandchildren: #14

When you are over emotional, or come across as weird, you lose credibility and it makes no difference how right you are.

When I was 30-something and working as Senior Aide to an elected official, I was the gatekeeper to a person with tremendous power. As such, I met daily with a never-ending line of representatives (lobbyists) intent upon persuading me to persuade my boss to help them get whatever they needed – usually to help them make more money. I also met daily with individuals whose beliefs, principals and values (not financial gain) drove their ever waking moment. These were the “cause” people, and their causes included concerns for children, the poor, elderly, environment etc.

One such guy I will never forget, was a mass transit advocate who I will call “Jim.”  Jim was brilliant. He knew his facts. He articulated exceptionally well. He was always well-prepared, and he was always at meetings about transportation issues. But in spite of all this, when he arrived at the podium to speak his case, there was an almost synchronized rolling of eyes throughout the room, thought bubbles over every head reading, “Here comes the kook.” It really wouldn’t have mattered what Jim said or how he said it because his appearance (extreme 1950’s vintage clothing and glasses and long unruly hair) was so bazaar, people wrote him off before he even spoke a word. Sure it works for Weird Al Yankovic (pictured), but it didn’t help Jim. Sensing this, he became defensive and emotional, often shouting down the other speakers.

One day in my office, I stopped him mid-rant and said, “Jim, you’re smart, you know what you are talking about and you’re right, but they will never hear you because they cannot see past your weirdness.” I told him right or wrong, like it or not, he needed to look like and act like the people he was trying to convince, so they could see his truth, and not just him.

So keep your cool and avoid the extreme, so you can retain the credibility that will help you win your case.

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