In my hometown of Los Angeles, California, I stood out for caring about politics. I was taught politics was a controversial topic to avoid out of politeness. This made debate simple, since my remarks generally went unquestioned or ignored by my politically apathetic peers.
However, everyone in D.C. is as politically outraged as I am. Now I must decide who is worth listening to. Enticing speech may attract and entertain an audience, but it does not guarantee a compelling message. The conservative movement seeks leaders beyond fans, and a wise audience can see through charm.
As Morton Blackwell said, "Moral outrage is the most powerful motivating force in politics." Address your outrage to expand your knowledge, strengthen your personal and professional skills, and sharpen political tools beyond your energy.
While you may have discovered your natural enthusiasm, here’s how to establish credibility:
1. Credentials establish credibility
While credentials alone do not make a person trustworthy, experience speaks for itself. Within your position and organization, constantly ask for new and more challenging tasks to list on your resume. Search for online programs or classes with flexible schedules to earn training outside of your full-time job. Education goes beyond a college degree, as is evident in politics. Read relevant books, research unfamiliar topics, and attend lectures and trainings. Identify proper mentors as you bond with fellow and senior leaders in the conservative movement. No matter your age, position, or title, continuously expand your knowledge.
2. Avoid defensiveness
Defensiveness is a reaction to nervousness. Even in the heat of an argument or when desperately trying to prove a point, maintain professionalism. If you know the facts, there is no need for a defensive attitude. Defensive communication reveals vulnerability and immediately weakens your message.
The most talkative person in the room is not necessarily the smartest. Whether you are debating onstage or at the dinner table with your liberal cousin, do not improvise facts. Admit when you need clarification or do not know an answer, and note that you will need to do further research. Assume that everything you say will be researched and repeated.
4. Prepare to support every opinion with fact
In the world of politics, small talk can turn into a debate anytime and anywhere. People will observe casual remarks and subtle reactions and ask you to elaborate. If you do not have any facts or rationale to support an opinion, do not share it aloud.
When you are personally connected to your causes, you are more likely to be discouraged by minor setbacks. Do not let personal or professional obstacles distract or discourage you from your goals.
Ultimately, both personal and professional attributes form a person’s credibility. Enthusiasm inspires and incites action, but relying on that alone will not achieve a long-term successful career. The most effective leaders in the conservative movement are those with a lively presence and the credibility to back it up.