It all started when we moved to Washington DC back in 2000. Seeing how lobbying and fundraising worked made me feel like I did when I first discovered professional wrestling wasn’t real – shock, followed by disappointment, followed by anger, and then by apathy.
I saw it for what it was: backdoor deals, politicians getting greased to support legislation, and of course the mud-slinging campaigning to earn those jobs in the first place.
That said, one of the best things you can do is to THINK like a politician.
If you’ve ever wondered why a politician can’t answer a question with a straight up answer, it’s because they know full well that their response has consequences, intended and unintended. They realize every word has to be thought out carefully. It’s why they have a hard time answering a question on the spot – they have to think through their words carefully.
Maybe that’s good advice for the rest of us. If you’ve ever said something that came back to bite you, you’ve learned this the hard way. There are a couple of things to consider:
- Take a deep breath first. If you write or speak from emotion, there’s a good chance you’ll say something that can cause trouble for you.
- Imagine how what you want to say impacts groups beyond just yours. If you tell your sales team to dismiss a particular customer because of their difficulty, imagine what happens when that customer hears about it?
- Imagine how what you say will look if the entire world hears it (not that big of a stretch considering the reach of social media).
- Imagine how what you say now might look if for some reason you have to change your mind or approach later.
Politicians fear being seen as flip-floppers probably more than anything else. It’s why they seem non-committal when asked a question. Rather than wait to be put on the spot, why not think through all of this before saying something. Run your ideas or answers by a trusted group of colleagues who will be honest with you. Rehearse and you’ll come across as decisive, trustworthy, and confident – the exact opposite of a politician.
You won’t always have the time to be this prepared, but keeping the mindset of strategic thinking will keep you out of trouble and build your credibility.