I’ve always thought it’s better to say what you stand for instead of what you’re against. But it isn’t always easy to do.
As I wrote recently, I think communicating the strengths of your own merits beats beating up the other guy. Not just in writing but in life: It’s more powerful to say what you believe in instead of arguing against what you don’t.
But yesterday I was feeling a little raw. People were annoying me in general, and some political commentary I heard was the last straw. What was said doesn’t matter, but I was feeling angry at “the other side” for trying to put a negative spin on the President’s efforts to create jobs.
This was my frame of mind as I went to my first night of making phone calls as a volunteer for Organizing for America, doing my part to help President Obama’s re-election campaign. I vented for a minute to my fellow volunteers who were, well, understandably understanding. Then we all got to work. I spoke with supporters of the President and the positive energy quickly erased my mood.
But what really helped me reframe how I’d been thinking was a conversation with Melissa Bernardi, who is my county’s regional field director for Organizing for America–Michigan. I told her how good it felt to be talking with others who believe in the President, taking positive action instead of arguing with the folks who had frustrated me earlier.
Maybe she read my mind a little bit or (more likely) she just knows how these things work. But our subsequent conversation reminded me that no matter how great the temptation to lash out at those we oppose, it’s much more productive to just keep saying what we believe in and why. To share the facts about why we support the President — and, perhaps even more important, to let our genuine enthusiasm for what we’re doing shine through.
It’s very possible that what had me so frustrated with the President’s opponents was their negativity. It just wore me down. But my evening of volunteering reinforced the power of the President’s optimism. As Melissa has rightly said before, every volunteer is essentially speaking on behalf of the President, helping to get his message out while he’s busy doing his job.
President Obama’s persistent hope, even in the face of daily negative energy from every corner, is reassuring. It sets an example that if he can remain an optimist — while still telling the truth about his opponents, albeit with great civility — I have no excuse for turning negative.
I won’t stop speaking my mind and speaking the truth. But I’ll remember that a positive attitude, combined with positive action, will get much more done than pessimism ever could.