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One-Minute Liberty Tip: Fast, Fun and Funny

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the Liberator Online Volume 18, No. 15. Subscribe here!)

Here’s a fun, funny and fast way to communicate the essence of how libertarians view government.

It’s been circulating among libertarians and other small-government advocates for many years.

With the right audience, it will draw laughs and knowing nods — and win them to your side.

Here it is:

“Smokey the Bear’s rules for fire safety also apply to government — keep it small, keep it in a confined area, and keep an eye on it.”

It works great as a quick remark in a casual conversation, or as the opening to a more detailed and precise discussion of libertarianism and the nature of government.

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Sharon Harris is president of the Advocates for Self-Government.  

The Libertarian Progress That Might Have Been

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives by Michael Cloud Comments are off

(By Michael Cloud, From Persuasion Point #353, from the Liberator Online Volume 18, No. 15. Subscribe here!)

For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: “It might have been!”

– John Greenleaf Whittier

Near the end of your life, you may have a chance to look back – and see what might have been. For your personal life. And for your libertarian life.

You will probably regret a number of things you did — or failed to do. And wish you’d have made a different choice — a better one.

Looking back, what regrets might you have about your current libertarian choices and actions?

Will you regret participating in the libertarian movement — or wish you had been more involved?

Will you regret spending an afternoon working at an Operation Politically Homeless booth — or sadly wish you had spent a day or two or three sharing the World’s Smallest Political Quiz?

Will you regret reading Libertarianism in One Lesson, Healing Our World and a half dozen other libertarian classics — or will you wish you’d shared these books with curious high school or college students?

Will you rue the day you donated $20 or $50 or $80 to the Advocates to help reach out to college students with our libertarian ideas and insights — or will you sadly wish you have given more… so the Advocates could do more?

Will you feel bitterness and anger over the time and money you spent attending an Advocates communication seminar — or will you wish you could relive the experience?

You don’t have to wait until it’s too late. You don’t have to wait until regret and sad might-have-beens fill your heart.

Simply take five minutes alone — and imagine that you’re ninety and near the end of your life. Look at this day, this year through those eyes. Look at your libertarian choices and actions.

Then make the libertarian choice you will NOT regret. The libertarian choice that will delight and please you today. The one that you’ll look back on with a smile — or tears of joy.

As you take these actions, you’ll be growing the libertarian movement — and advancing the cause of freedom.

And if enough of us do this today, tomorrow, this year and next… you may reach the last days of your life in a libertarian America. And you will be glad.

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Michael Cloud’s brand-new book Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion is available exclusively from the Advocates, along with his acclaimed earlier book Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion.

In 2000, Michael was honored with the Thomas Paine Award as the Most Persuasive Libertarian Communicator in America.

“Advancing Liberty Is Like Driving a Car at Night”

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives by Michael Cloud Comments are off

(By Michael Cloud, From Persuasion Point #352, Volume 18, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here.)

There has never been a libertarian country. No time and no land has ever been fully free.

Some of our ancestors made progress. Made inroads to freedom. The Magna Carta. The Declaration of Independence. The Constitution of the United States of America.

But all had deep flaws, failings and shortcomings. Even in America, they allowed slavery. Or failed to recognize the rights and freedoms of women. Or violated the life, liberty, and property of native Americans. Or allowed blue laws. Or condoned Jim Crow laws. Or deprived gay men and lesbians of rights and liberties that we recognize for heterosexual men and women. Or shamelessly violated — and continue to violate — everyone’s natural or Constitutional rights — trampling on our fundamental Bill of Rights liberties.

We have partial freedom. More than many, but less than we could have and should have. We must find and drive an unmarked road to full freedom.

“Advancing liberty is like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” — adapted from E.L. Doctorow.

The headlights keep us on the road, but the freedom road markers make sure we’re moving toward a more complete liberty.

Freedom Road Marker: “Does this proposal cut government spending — AND return every penny to the taxpayers?”

Freedom Marker: “Does this proposal shrink government — or not?”

Freedom Marker: “Does this expand liberty — or not?”

Freedom Marker: “Does this reduce the size or spending or taxing or power or authority of government — or not?”

If we keep driving in the direction of small government and individual liberty, we will reach our rightful destination: a libertarian America.

* * * * * * * *
Michael Cloud’s brand-new book Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion is available exclusively from the Advocates, along with his acclaimed earlier book Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion.

In 2000, Michael was honored with the Thomas Paine Award as the Most Persuasive Libertarian Communicator in America.

Persuasion Power Point #351: What’s the Most Important Issue in Politics Today?

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives by Michael Cloud Comments are off

Politics is priorities.

What’s most important? What’s least important?

Which problem is critical? And which is trivial?

The next time you discuss politics with a friend or co-worker, ask:

“If you could solve only one political problem — which would you choose?

“Why?

“Why, in your opinion, is the problem you named more pressing, more urgent than, say, the federal deficit or high taxes or government spying on us?

“If you were given 5 minutes airtime on all TV and radio stations, what would you tell Americans to win them to your point of view?

“What would be the huge, immediate, direct benefits of solving this problem?”

Carefully listen to what he says. Thank him for sharing his opinions with you.

Then, later in the day, repeat the process with another friend or co-worker.

Try it with 5 or 6 people.

If your friends are like mine, each one will choose a different “most important political problem.”

And you’ll learn that you need to have 5 or 6 very different libertarian conversations — if you want to win them to libertarianism.

You’ll need to talk about their “most important political problem” – their political priority — and discuss how and why libertarianism can relieve, reduce, and possibly remove it.

When you talk in terms of their priorities, in terms of what matters most to them, they will listen and talk with you.

And many of them will be receptive and responsive to our libertarian solutions.

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Michael Cloud’s brand-new book Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion is available exclusively from the Advocates, along with his acclaimed earlier book Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion.

The Surveillance Scandal: The Right — and the Wrong –Terms

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

“In the animal kingdom, the rule is, eat or be eaten; in the 

human kingdom, define or be defined.”

So wrote the great libertarian Thomas Szasz.

Define or be defined. That’s a key principle of effective communication.

You can see this at work right now, in the unfolding scandal concerning government surveillance and the resulting public debate.

Those who defend such programs are using specific words to attempt to redefine and change what is at stake in this debate.

“I think it’s important to recognize that you can’t have 100 percent security, and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience,” President Obamasaid this month. “We’re going to have to make some choices as a society.” Read more

One-Minute Liberty Tip – You’re on Candid Camera!

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

Here’s a surefire tool that will get you off to a great start in any conversation about the ideas of liberty.

Start off with a

Simple
Movement
Into
Libertarian
Engagement

…better known as a SMILE! (Check out the first letters of that phrase.) Read more

How NOT to Talk to People About Liberty

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

One of the best ways to learn how to better communicate the ideas of liberty is to see someone doing it… the wrong way.

How NOT to Talk to People About Liberty by The Libertarienne Show is a fun, funny, short video that shows you exactly that. Read more

Persuasion PowerPoint #349: Turn Objections Into Objectives

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives by Advocates HQ Comments are off

* “But if we legalize marijuana, wouldn’t millions and millions more Americans try it, become regular users, and waste their days stoned and unproductive?”

* “Gun control laws aren’t perfect, but if just anyone were able to buy and own a gun, and carry it in public, wouldn’t we have radically more gun violence?”

* “Legalize prostitution? You can’t be serious! Sexually transmitted diseases would skyrocket. Married men would stray more often. And crimes surrounding prostitution would go up.”

Many libertarians treat objections like these as total deal-breakers to our libertarian proposals. As insurmountable obstacles to getting someone to favor expanding freedom in controversial areas. As unshakeable opinions held by those who want to limit liberty.

But what if these objections are NOT total, absolute, unalterable deal-killers?

What if they are instead genuine concerns to be answered, problems to be solved, or fears to be neutralized? Read more

Persuasion PowerPoint #348: Gandhi’s Simple Lesson

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives by Michael Cloud Comments are off

Would you like people to carefully listen to every word you say about liberty?

Do you want them to be receptive and responsive to your libertarian ideas and evidence?

Would you like people to thoughtfully consider your libertarian point of view?

It may be possible — if you learn and live Mahatma Gandhi’s lesson.

“Be the change you want to see in the world,” said Gandhi.

Be a careful listener — and soon others will carefully listen to you. Be a receptive and responsive person — and people will receive and respond to you and your ideas. Be a reflective and thoughtful conversationalist — and you’ll find your world filled with like-minded people.

“Be the change you want to see in the world,” said Gandhi.

What kind of listeners do you want? Read more

A Libertarian Dozen of the Best Ways to Discover and Create More Libertarians

in Communicating Liberty by Sharon Harris Comments are off

You’ve heard of a “baker’s dozen,” which is 13 instead of 12. Since libertarians always deliver more for the buck, here are 19 tips and techniques you can put to use immediately to discover and create more libertarians!

Enjoy these tips – and put them to use for liberty. Please let me know about your successes! Thank you!

1. Be aware of the “curse of knowledge.”

When you know a lot about something, it can be frustrating trying to explain it to someone who doesn’t have the knowledge you have. It can also be frustrating to your listener. Remember, it took you time to learn about all these ideas, so be patient. And don’t try to talk about too much at a time.

Always treat your listener like YOU would like to be treated.

2. The First Rule of Libertarian Communication?

This may be The First Rule of Libertarian Communication: Don’t turn people off to libertarianism. Don’t ruin a potential recruit. Don’t leave him or her with a distaste for libertarians and libertarianism.
It usually takes people several exposures to a new idea before they are willing to seriously consider it and embrace it. (In fact, if they adopt it too quickly, without reflection, they may abandon it just as quickly when the next new idea comes along.)

So when you meet people new to libertarianism, it’s not your job to convert them in one session. Though it could happen, it probably won’t. Resist the temptation to browbeat them, to argue, to grab them by the lapels and convince them of every detail of your views. (I know, it’s hard to resist sometimes! But try.)

Your goal as a libertarian communicator in most of these situations is simply to make a good impression and provide some useful and intriguing information. Smile. Listen to their concerns. Offer some good ideas. Find what issues are important to your listeners, and agree with them whenever you honestly can. Show them you’re a good person who shares their concerns (remember the Ransberger Pivot). Leave them with a few of those pocket-sized copies of the World’s Smallest Political Quiz that you always carry with you. (Quiz cards are designed so each is a self-contained outreach kit, and they’re available online from the Advocates Liberty Store.

Then, the next time this person encounters libertarian ideas — in a letter to the editor, on TV or radio, or in person — he will remember his first encounter pleasantly, and will be better prepared to explore these ideas further.

You want him to think along these lines: “That libertarian guy I met last month was pleasant and interesting, and his ideas were intriguing. I agreed with a lot of what he had to say. And now here’s another good idea from a libertarian. I need to look more deeply into libertarianism.”

This may sound like a simple tip. But believe me: it is crucial. When you identify yourself to someone as a libertarian, you instantly become, for that person, the public face of the whole libertarian movement.

Many, many people have been permanently turned off to libertarian ideas simply because the first libertarian they encountered acted in a way they found offensive, or presented the ideas in ways they found objectionable or obnoxious. And that’s a tragedy.

First, Do No Harm. That’s great advice for doctors – and libertarian communicators, too.

Instead of an argument

Alas, some libertarians consider arguing their favorite sport. It certainly can be fun, but often it is self-defeating.

Next time you find yourself tempted to argue, put yourself in the other person’s shoes: how many times have YOU changed your mind about something because someone attacked your position or told you your ideas were stupid?

Libertarian humorist Dave Barry says about himself (hopefully he’s joking!): “I argue very well. Ask any of my remaining friends. I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this, and steer clear of me at parties. Often – as a sign of their great respect – they don’t even invite me.” Ouch!

Productive alternatives to arguing include: actually listening to the other person, developing rapport, asking questions to discover his or her concerns, finding common ground, and sharing stories of how free-market alternatives have solved problems in the past.

These techniques and many more are described in detail in past “Liberty Minute” columns, in the Liberator Online’s “Persuasion Power Points” columns, in Michael Cloud’s book Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion, in Cloud’s audio program Essence of Libertarian Persuasion, and at the Advocates’ Communication Center.

Arguing is the Little League of communication. Persuasion is the World Series. It takes longer to master, but it’s a far better game and the pay-off is well worth it.

Don’t Begin with an Apology

Suppose you had a really nice house you wanted to sell. When a prospective buyer came by, would your opening line be, “You may have heard about houses like this falling down, but that’s not true about this house.”

If you owned a restaurant, would you advertise, “Our burgers aren’t the kind that make people sick – honest!”

Of course you wouldn’t. But that’s exactly what I’ve heard many libertarians do when they’re introducing others to libertarian ideas.

They begin with, “There are lots of misconceptions about libertarianism.” Or, “I know you’ve heard that libertarians don’t care about the poor, but I’m not like that.” Or, “Despite what you may have heard, it’s not true that Lyndon LaRouche is a libertarian.”

While it’s important to correct misunderstandings and falsehoods about libertarianism (when they come up), it’s even more important to start your discussion of libertarianism in a positive way.

Opening with a negative or apologetic statement immediately plants seeds of doubt in the mind of your listeners. Most people believe that, where there’s smoke, there’s quite possibly a fire.

It also invites attack and argument, since you start by putting yourself on the defensive.

But most importantly, many people – if not most – have a very positive overall impression of libertarianism. It’s self-defeating to begin by apologizing for some misconception or falsehood they may not even be concerned about.

Once you’ve given them an honest, positive description of libertarianism they’ll be able to clearly see the benefits of liberty. And if they hear negative things about libertarianism, or have concerns, they can ask you – or, even better, they’ll correct the misconceptions themselves!

3. A “Good Neighbor Policy” for Libertarians

One of the best ways to win others to libertarian ideas is simply to be a nice person – a nice person who also happens to be a libertarian.

This is one of the things that the late, great Karl Hess – one of the most influential libertarians of the past century – often talked about: the importance of being a “good neighbor.” In his West Virginia rural community, Hess pitched in and helped his neighbors build barns and do other chores. As a result, they liked this friendly, helpful neighbor – and they respected his out-of-mainstream libertarian ideas.

Libertarian philosopher Tibor Machan puts another spin on the same notion: “People tend to be more interested in what you have to say if they already know what kind of wine you like.”

It’s common knowledge that people will be more likely to try a new product, or a new idea, if someone they know and respect suggests it. That’s as true of political ideas as it is of restaurants or jogging shoes.

So one of the best ways to help people become open to our ideas is to first let them get to know you as friendly, nice, interesting, interested, and helpful. Then, when they find out you are also a libertarian, they’ll be interested in learning more. The ideas will be “vetted” because they already respect you.

Yes, it’s simple, it seems obvious – but how many of us practice this as often as we might? Be a good friend, relative, neighbor, co-worker – and your ideas will carry far more weight.

4. Listen. Listen. Listen.

One of the most important – and frequently overlooked, and surprisingly difficult – secrets of truly successful communication is LISTENING.

In our eagerness to tell people about the ideas of liberty, we may miss out on the big benefits of simply stopping and listening.

Here are some of those benefits:

1. You learn what the other person’s primary concerns and interests are. This gives you a chance to address those concerns, instead of talking about something the other person doesn’t care about.

2. You find out about any misconceptions they may have about libertarianism. This gives you a chance to clear those up.

3. You can discover areas of agreement, thus creating invaluable rapport.

4. You show the other person that you are interested in them. People tend to be reciprocal, and therefore will be more interested in you.

To be a good listener, you must REALLY listen – not just pretend. Breathe and focus on what the other person is saying.

While this is SIMPLE, it’s certainly not EASY. (If you think it is… try it.) But trust me, this is powerful.

So be sure to listen up! The benefits make it well worth the effort.

* * *

In a recent Dilbert cartoon, the obnoxious Dogbert character told a communication seminar: “There’s really no point in listening to other people. They’re either going to be agreeing with you or saying stupid stuff.”

Thank goodness Dogbert isn’t a libertarian! The fact is, every successful persuasion conversation starts with listening. Attentive listening assures the other person that you care about what they think, and allows you to effectively address their concerns.

But how do you know you’re really hearing what they’re saying? It’s simple: Repeat what the other person said. Then ask: “Is that right?” This technique is called “echoing.” It lets someone know you heard and understood.

Example: They say, “In a libertarian society, wouldn’t poor people starve without government welfare?” You say, “You’re concerned that poor people wouldn’t get the help they need in a libertarian society, and would starve. Is that correct?”

Wait for the response (and listen to it!). Then you can talk about how liberty helps the poor. Echoing lets the other person know you’re listening. It’s a technique that builds the respect and rapport that’s necessary to change somebody’s mind.

Is there an exception to this rule? Only one: Don’t listen to Dogbert!

5. Learn about sales and learn about psychology.

[Info to follow. Please check back soon.]

6. K.I.S.S. (Keep it short, silly).

Few people like to hear a lecture from another person, so keep your answers short. Here are some good tips on doing this.

Success with Soundbites

As a libertarian, you are automatically a spokesperson for libertarianism. How well you answer questions about liberty may well determine whether or not your listeners decide to become libertarians.

So you should always be prepared to answer, in a quick, clear and memorable way, common questions about libertarianism.

Take a lesson from some of the world’s best communicators: don’t leave it to chance!

Don’t hope that inspiration will strike you at the moment you’re unexpectedly asked a question. Don’t risk the frustration of stumbling around, answering badly, and then kicking yourself a day or two later when the right answer suddenly pops into your head.

Instead, work on your answers in advance. Create soundbites – short, pithy, memorable answers – to those questions.

You can probably make a list of questions you are most likely to be asked about libertarianism. (The most common: “What is libertarianism, anyway?”)

For each of those questions, create one or more soundbites. They should be about thirty seconds long. Less is better. Write them down. Refine them. Commit them to memory. And practice saying them until they come quickly and easily, and sound natural and fresh.

Former Libertarian Party presidential candidates Ed Clark, David Bergland, and Harry Browne each did this. The seemingly off-the-cuff eloquence they showed during their campaigns was actually the result of their advance work preparing and practicing soundbites.

Happily, you don’t have to reinvent the soundbite wheel. The Advocates collected the best of Harry Browne’s campaign soundbites into his wonderful book Liberty A to Z: 872 Libertarian Soundbites You Can Use Right Now. Dr. Mary Ruwart is a pioneer in the creation of soundbites. Many answers from her “Ask Dr. Ruwart” column are archived in searchable form at the Advocates Web site. Mary also has an outstanding book, Short Answers to the Tough Questions, a treasure of soundbites, available from the Advocates.

There are also some great short soundbite-sized answers to common questions at Libertarianism.com.

Take these sources as your starting point. Pick the soundbites you like. Personalize them. Rewrite them and make them your own. Learn them.

You’ll be a far more comfortable and polished spokesperson for liberty. And you’ll enjoy your casual conversations about libertarianism a lot more.

“Hey, What’s a Libertarian?”

One day, you’re going to be asked: “Just what is a libertarian, anyway?”

It may happen while you’re calling into a talk radio show. “So tell us,”, the host may ask you. “What do libertarians believe, anyway?”

Or you may be running for office and a reporter gives you the opportunity to “define yourself” for his story.

Your answer could be very important. It might reach thousands. Or it might reach just one person who is very important to you.

Don’t hope for inspiration. Instead, be prepared.

Have a clear, short, persuasive and easy-to-understand definition on the tip of your tongue.

I strongly suggest you *memorize* your favorite definition – and practice delivering it – so you don’t have to even think about it when asked.

That’s what two of America’s most successful libertarian communicators — presidential candidates Harry Browne and David Bergland – both told me they did.

You can write your own definition. You can also use someone else’s, or modify someone else’s to fit your own style.

Here are some definitions to try on for size:

The American Heritage Dictionary: “One who advocates maximizing individual rights and minimizing the role of the state

Here’s what I usually say: “Libertarianism is, as the name implies, the belief in liberty. Libertarians believe that you own your own life and property, and you have the right to make your own choices as to how you live your life — as long as you simply respect the same right of others to do the same. We believe in individual liberty and limited government.”

And here’s a great one from David Bergland: “Libertarianism is what you probably already believe. Libertarian values are American values. Libertarianism is America’s heritage of liberty, patriotism and honest work to build a future for your family. It’s the idea that being free and independent is a great way to live. That each of us is a unique individual, with great potential. That you own yourself, and that you have the right to decide what’s best for you. Americans of all races and creeds built a great and prosperous country with these libertarian ideals. Let’s use them to build America’s future.”

Find more great short definitions.

Speaking of our libertarianism.com site, keep that URL in mind! It’s very useful to be able to add, after your definition: “If you want to learn more about libertarianism, there’s a Web site that can answer your questions: www.Libertarianism.com .”

7. Importance of branding libertarianism.

McDonald’s doesn’t sell hamburgers. It sells Big Macs. Coca-Cola doesn’t sell cola drinks. It sells Cokes.

These companies want you to think of *their* stores and *their* products when you are ready to buy. And they want you to come back. Again and again.

For the same reason, when you are talking or writing about libertarian ideas, use the words “libertarian” or “libertarianism.”

This accomplishes two vital things.

1) It helps people become aware of those words. It helps them understand that libertarianism is a distinctive political philosophy – a political “brand.”

2) Unless you brand your idea as libertarian, your letter to the editor or your conversation may become an “ad” for conservatism or liberalism instead of libertarianism.

For example, a letter to the editor against gun control that fails to mention the word “libertarian” will, by default, be seen by virtually all readers as a conservative letter. Similarly, a speech opposing the War on Drugs will be understood by many listeners to be a liberal speech – unless the word “libertarian” is used in it.

When you get hungry for a burger, McDonald’s wants you to think of them. When people get hungry for solutions to political problems, we want them to think of libertarians. A letter or conversation that brands solutions as “libertarian” will send customers to the libertarian “store” – where they can sample our other “products,” that is, other libertarian positions and the libertarian ideology.

Unless you brand your ideas as libertarian, people will miss the opportunity to learn about our movement that is devoted to liberty on every issue – and to become a part of it!

8. Using questions.

The Power of Questions

Libertarians have lots of great answers to political questions.

Sometimes, however, it’s better to ask questions instead of giving answers. Asking the right question, or asking a question in the right way, can stimulate mind-opening insights.

Here’s one example of a great question, from Wall Street Journal editor John Fund.

Suppose someone is talking about the need for a major government role in providing for the poor. Instead of lecturing the person (which could start an argument and put the person on the defensive), try asking this question:

“Imagine you won the lottery or otherwise came into a large sum of money, and you wanted to help the poor. You could give $100,000 to a private charity of your choice. Or you could write your check to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Which would you choose – and why?”

Virtually no one chooses government! And in answering the question, people convince themselves of the advantages of charity over government.

Questions make people think. It’s amazing how often people will come up with the libertarian answer to a problem, if you give them a chance. And if they do so, they are more likely to accept that answer.

Flipping the Question

In this issue, we have excerpts from a new TIME magazine interview with Ron Paul.

One of the questions TIME asked Paul was this:

“Why do you support the decriminalization of marijuana?”

Now that sounds like a perfectly normal, fair and innocent question. And, in fact, it is.

But think about the wording. The question creates a “frame” in a listener’s mind. Asked in this way, the question implies, and assumes, and implicitly announces, that the position being questioned is unusual, out-of-mainstream, radical, weird, or even dangerous.

The result: No matter how you answer it, that initial impression remains. And you sound out-of-mainstream, on the fringe, or worse.

Please note: I’m not saying that someone who asks a question worded like that is trying to paint you in a negative manner. They may, in fact, agree 100% with you. But the wording of the question puts you at a major communication disadvantage, and undercuts your answer no matter how brilliant and logical it might be.

But you can reverse that, and turn it to your advantage – by using a technique I call “Flipping the Question,” or, for short, the Flip.

The Flip restates and reverses the question. When that happens, YOUR point becomes the reasonable, moderate, normal, safe view. Just like that! And the Flip is so subtle and effective that your questioner is likely to agree with you.

Ron Paul’s response to that TIME question is the perfect Flip.

He answered: “Why support the criminalization of marijuana is the better question.”

He then went on to give a strong, short argument for legalization of marijuana.

See what he did? He simply restated the question. Supporting marijuana prohibition was presented as the odd position. His position was presented as the normal, moderate, responsible, commonsense one.

It happened instantly.

You can use the Flip to great advantage in many libertarian conversations. Examples:

QUESTION: Why do you want to end government schools?

FLIP: A better question would be, “After so many decades of failure, why does anyone still think the government is competent to educate our children?”

QUESTION: Why do you defend gun ownership so strongly?

FLIP: A better question might be, “Why would anyone want to deprive people of the ability to defend themselves and their loved ones from vicious criminals?”

When you Flip the Question, you, in essence, become the questioner. The original questioner (or the implicit assumption in the question) is suddenly put on the defensive.

Note, too, that the Flip isn’t necessarily a rebuttal or an argument. Many questions worded this way aren’t coming from people hostile to your views. You will find that the Flip persuades many of these people to agree with you.

Flipping the Question is not something that comes naturally. You have to memorize the response, practice it, get comfortable and fluid with it. And of course you must have good answers about the subject being discussed.

But it is worth the effort. Because the Flip can turn your answer into a victory for your ideas.

9. Take YES for an answer.

As libertarians, we’re always anxious to persuade others to come around to our point of view about every issue.

So in our first conversation with someone, it’s easy to fall into the trap of not taking YES for an answer.

All too often we anxiously wait for – or even rush the conversation toward – a hot-button topic on which we *disagree* with the person, so we can begin the persuasion process!

But when we do this, we skip one very important step in a discussion: building rapport. Without rapport, persuasion is very difficult, if not impossible.

One wonderful thing about libertarianism is that EVERYONE agrees with us on some – even many – issues. So try starting the conversation with areas of agreement. Linger on those issues, enjoy the conversation, and let the other person know how smart you think they are! Be sure to tell them that you – and other libertarians – strongly agree with them on those issues.

Hold off on steering the conversation toward disagreement until later in the conversation – or even until a future conversation.

Learn to take YES for an answer, first, and you’ll find it much easier to get to agreement on those controversial topics.

10. Use the Ransberger Pivot.

Ouch! Libertarians sometimes get hit with hostile questions from people who don’t understand the ideas of liberty and free markets.

Mention free markets, ending the War on Drugs, or replacing government schools with private alternatives, for example, and some people will go ballistic. They will think you’re crazy, or have evil intentions, or both – and they’ll let you know it.

“End government welfare? Do you hate the poor?”

“Make drugs legal? Do you want our streets filled with crazed addicts and criminals?”

“No government schools? Do you want a nation of illiterates? Don’t you care about our children?”

Sound familiar? It’s easy for a conversation to quickly degenerate from here into a shouting match, or a meaningless exchange of slogans and rhetoric.

But there’s a far better way to respond. Use the Ransberger Pivot!

The Ransberger Pivot is one of the most effective communication tools I know. Invented in 1982 by Ray Ransberger and Advocates Founder Marshall Fritz, the Pivot is a great way to defuse hostility and get your questioner on *your* side.

The Ransberger Pivot is quite simple – but it doesn’t come naturally. It takes some practice. But the payoff makes it well worth the effort.

There are three steps to the Pivot:

Step 1: Stay calm and *listen* to what the questioner is asking.

Step 2: Ask yourself what the person is really concerned about. What does he really want? Make an intelligent guess.

Step 3: If you want the same thing (and 99% of the time you will), strongly express your desire for that same outcome. Show your questioner you share the same core values on this issue.

Let’s look at the Ransberger Pivot in action.

Your questioner asks: “You libertarians want to get rid of public schools, don’t you? What about our children?”

You ask yourself: What is this person *really* concerned about? What does he want?

Obviously, he wants children to be educated. A great goal! You want this, too, right?

So you respond something like this: “Like you, I too want to live in a world where all children are educated. In fact, where children have access to a far better education than they have now.”

Bingo! That’s the Pivot. You’ve bypassed a potential argument, and instead established a strong common ground with your questioner. Instead of immediately launching into a disagreement, you’ve found agreement and shared values.

Now you can go on to a constructive discussion of the best ways to achieve the end you both agree is worthwhile.

Of course, you then must have a good answer to that question. You need to know the facts – in this case, a persuasive case for why the private sector offers the best opportunity to dramatically improve education.

But The Ransberger Pivot is a vital transition, or prelude, to that answer. It plays a crucial role by defusing hostility, and thus making your questioner, and other listeners, more ready to hear your answer with an open mind.

Remember: when people ask hostile questions, they often are questioning your motives. They assume you disagree with their concerns, they think you have different values, and they may even believe you have bad intentions.

The Ransberger Pivot is a kind of verbal judo or aikido. It takes the steam out of the hostility by demonstrating that you share the questioner’s concerns. This in turn offers the opportunity for rapport. Your listeners are then more likely to pay attention to your answer, and you increase your chance of persuading them to your point of view.

Now that you know what the Ransberger Pivot is, let’s try it out.

Your questioner asks you: “You want to end welfare? What about the poor? Are you really that cold and heartless?”

Remember the Ransberger Pivot steps. Stay calm and don’t fall into a knee-jerk retort. Think: What’s the underlying concern here? Obviously, your questioner is against poverty, and wants to help those in need. That’s admirable, isn’t it? It’s actually a great ideal, and one you share.

So use the Ransberger Pivot to establish that common ground. Try a response along these lines:

“Like you, I am saddened and outraged by poverty. I want the poor and needy to have more aid, more effective aid, and far more opportunities than they do now. I want a world of abundance and opportunity for all people.”

Now, you can go on to have a fruitful discussion of the best way to achieve that goal. Again, you’ll need the facts for your argument. The Ransberger Pivot doesn’t give you that. But it does give you a more friendly, harmonious chance to convey those facts.

Some other Ransberger Pivot responses to typical questions:

“Like you, I want to live in a society where the streets are safe for our children…”

“Like you, I want clean air and water…”

“Like you, I want to know that the food and products I buy are safe…”

Here are a few more tips for using the Pivot.

1) It helps to memorize a specific phrase to kick it off. Notice above I used: “Like you, I want…” That’s a proven favorite. One advantage of memorizing an effective phrase like this is that it will always be there for you to use. Don’t rely on improvisation.

2) The Ransberger Pivot should be short. Just a sentence or two. It’s just a way to turn the discussion around. You need time for the follow-up answer, the meat of your discussion.

3) Use the first person (whenever it is appropriate). Instead of “libertarians want…” say “I want.” This more personal response helps establish rapport.

4) The Ransberger Pivot should only be used when you really agree with the listener’s concerns (and most of the time, you will). It’s the *opposite* of a trick or deception. It’s a way of clarification.

5) It takes practice! It is NOT as easy as it sounds. Using the Ransberger Pivot does not come naturally – especially when you’re in the midst of a discussion. So prepare now. Make a list of difficult questions. Ask them to yourself, or even better, get someone to ask them to you. Practice Ransberger Pivot responses until it becomes a reflex.

6) Start your soundbites with the Ransberger Pivot! In the past, I’ve discussed the importance of preparing and memorizing soundbite responses to the common questions every libertarian is inevitably asked. Use the Ransberger Pivot at the start of your soundbites, when appropriate. It’s a powerful combination!

Many libertarian communicators swear by the Ransberger Pivot. Give it a try!

11. Take NO for an answer.

Do you have someone with whom you’ve argued endlessly about politics and have never gotten an agreement?

Or is there someone in your life who gets mad (or gets quiet, or changes the subject) every time you bring up a political issue?

Suggestion: Unless you just enjoy arguing for the sake of arguing, don’t talk about politics with those individuals.

Unfortunately, not everyone is in the market for our ideas. Some people really believe in Big Government and limited individual liberty.

On the other hand, there are plenty of folks who are not only open to our ideas, but are eager to hear about them and take action! They’re HUNGRY for the solutions that liberty provides.

There’s a limited amount of time available to find and meet these people, share the ideas of liberty with them, and get them active in bringing libertarian ideas to still more people.

Ask any good salesman and he or she will tell you that the secret to making a sale is to talk to enough good prospects. To do that, we must learn to take “NO” for an answer, move on – and get a “YES!”

12. Do your homework.

13. Don’t hesitate to say “I don’t know.”

Are you an expert on politics, economics, world history, philosophy, geography, the environment, science, biology, current events, and half a dozen other major subjects?

Probably not. So, at some point in your conversations about liberty with friends, or in speeches about freedom to the public, you’re probably going to be asked a question you don’t know the answer to.

Be ready for it, because it happens to everyone. And relax – the answer is easy!

First, know what NOT to do. Don’t fall prey to the temptation to bluff your way through it or pretend to have knowledge you don’t have. This can really make you look bad.

Instead, first compliment the questioner: “That’s a very good question.” Then, just be honest: “And it’s one that I don’t know the answer to.”

How refreshing this will be to your audience! It’s not often that people encounter this kind of honesty – and they appreciate and respect it.

You now have the opportunity to let your audience know there is a large libertarian movement, where such questions have been discussed and answered. Tell them there are dozens of libertarian think tanks and organizations, and thousands of publications from libertarians on every conceivable topic – including this one. Let them know you will find the answer and get back to them right away.

If you don’t already have it, be sure to get contact information for the questioner and follow up promptly.

You’ve turned a difficult situation into an opportunity for further contact, and you’ve shown yourself to be human, honest, and reliable. Congratulations!

14. Have intellectual integrity.

15. Use “you” instead of “I.”

When talking about the benefits of liberty, we frequently use the word “I”. For example:

“Why should I have to give half of my income to the government?”

“Why should I have to pay for the education of other people’s children?”

“I would be far better off if I could invest the money that’s taken from me in Social Security taxes.”

By replacing “I” with “you,” we bring our listeners into the discussion. They are able to more clearly see that they — not just you — are victims of bad government policies. They can picture themselves benefiting from libertarian policies. And it sounds less selfish, less self-centered, as well.

“Why should you have to give half of your income to the government?”

“Why should you have to pay for the education of other people’s children?

“You would be far better off if you could invest the money that’s taken from you in Social Security taxes.”

A simple but effective shift in perspective. Try it!

16. Word choice: use the right words.

Mark Twain once siad the difference between the right word and the wrong word is the difference between “lightning” and “lightning bug.” I can’t stress too much how important it is to choose your words carefully.

[List to follow. Please check back soon.]

17. Be optimistic, passionate, enthusiastic.

18. Use the World’s Smallest Political Quiz and OPH.

19. Use the Libertarian Denominator.

Here is a great way to define libertarianism – particularly if someone asks you how libertarianism compares to liberalism and/or conservativism.

Libertarians often answer such questions with: “Libertarians are conservative on economic issues and liberal on social issues.”

Try using “The Libertarian Denominator” instead. Answer: “Conservatives who favor the free market tend to be libertarian on economic issues. Liberals who favor civil liberties tend to be libertarian on social issues.”

This answer makes libertarianism the common denominator – the measuring stick, if you will.

The Libertarian Denominator shows libertarianism to be the consistent philosophy, the one that favors liberty across the board.

An added bonus is instant rapport: just about everyone sees that they agree with libertarians – at least half the time!

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