Conservatives have long struggled to talk about our values in a way that connects with Americans and wins us credibility. When our fellow citizens don’t think we’re fundamentally caring people, our solutions to the great moral and practical challenges of our time fall on deaf ears.
All of us — from candidates and policymakers to private citizens who care deeply about this country — would benefit from learning to communicate our values and policy ideas more effectively. In my new New York Times best-selling book, “The Conservative Heart,” I offer seven tips that can help conservatives open hearts and minds so that Americans will listen to what we have to say and trust us to solve the deep problems facing the nation today.
Armed with these seven tips, you’ll never lose another dinner-table argument about politics. And they are exactly the qualities that primary voters should seek in any candidate who asks for their vote.
Tip 1: Be a Moralist
No matter the topic, never start with what you want to talk about; start with the WHY. If you lead with your heart, you’ll have a better shot at winning people over.
Tip 2: Fight for People, Not Against Things
Don’t just oppose bad ideas. Remind people who you’re fighting for: struggling Americans who need our help.
Tip 3: Get Happy
Good humor has to be authentic or people see through it in an instant. To be a happy warrior, you must genuinely be a happy person.
Tip 4: Steal All the Best Arguments
Most Americans don’t want to choose between compassion and morality, or between leadership and empathy. They want leaders who have all these traits. So expand your moral imagination, and emulate your opponents’ best traits.
Tip 5: Go Where You’re Not Welcome
Get out of your comfort zone! Attract people who don’t see things the same way, and enlist them to the cause. Conservatives must be more than a motivated minority. Expand your horizons, and engage with true believers, persuadables, and even hostiles.
Tip 6: Say It in 30 Seconds
A great speech treats the first opening seconds like the scarce and valuable commodity they are. First priority in making a good impression? Don’t blow your opening lines.
Tip 7: Break Your Bad Habits
The old way isn’t working. It’s not time to change the message; it’s time to change the way it’s delivered. Don’t be afraid to give up what’s comfortable for something that is scary but has an opportunity for success.
Author's note: Click here to learn more about how you can be part of a movement that speaks to voters’ hearts as well as their minds and reunites the country.
Arthur C. Brooks is president of the American Enterprise Institute and the Beth and Ravenel Curry Scholar in Free Enterprise. His latest book is His new book, The author of "The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America" (Broadside Books, July 14, 2015).