Gentle Controversy

There is power is controversy.

As activists, controversy is powerful wind in our sails, and any drama needs conflict as an animating element.

But too much conflict and people tune out, and you need people to stay engaged.

Any mass movement needs to leverage public opinion to sway elected officials, drive the news cycle and generally show people why, exactly, the cause has direct importance on their lives or the lives of those they care about. Many causes we Champions take up have an enemy: a seemingly immovable public official, a policy or statute we want changed.

You’ll feel the temptation to rail against what is holding back progress, but be careful how you respond to the call of the nemesis. At the outset, you have to make the case for change being necessary, and that may mean standing in opposition to powerful people and their plans.

Do it with respect.

Discipline yourself to treat these people with the respect of their offices, regardless of whether you think they deserve it or are acting in good faith in carrying out their duties. Why? Because it makes your cause more sympathetic.

But more important, treating the other guy or bad policy with a degree of restraint it makes you harder to dismiss, both by the person in opposition and by the people who thinks that person is right or “a good guy.”