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  • Bob Burg

“Bob Burg opens the floodgates to Fort Knox.”

~ Dottie Walters, Author, Speak & Grow Rich

Influence and the “Religion of Politics”

December 16th, 2013 by Bob Burg

Influence and the religion of politicsEver notice how often the following statement seems to occur in online political exchanges…

“Are you just stupid or are you intentionally trying to ruin our country?”

Ever notice that the following reply never occurs…

“Y’know, you’re right. I never thought of it that way. I must be a moron. From this point on, I renounce my views  and switch to whatever you tell me is actually the correct viewpoint. And, by the way, I’d like to take this moment to thank you for pointing out the error or my ways and saving me from continued wrong-thinking.

No. Instead, this person you’ve just insulted either insults you back or simply defends their position even stronger.

Why? Because — like religion — people identify so strongly with their political views that, to insult that position is to insult them!

So, how do you influence and persuade them to take your viewpoint?

You usually don’t. At least not in the first conversation. What you can do is make them comfortable enough with you that they will be open to additional discussions.

May I suggest the following three steps:

  1. Understand their positive intent. Yes, most people — regardless of their political party and its dogma — would like to see good results both for individuals and society as a whole.
  2. Communicate that you understand their positive intent. Express your appreciation for such.
  3. Begin with a place of agreement. Show where you both want the same thing even if you don’t agree on the methodology to accomplish it.

Example: “Pat, just reading your statement shows me that your heart is in the right place and you really want people to thrive. Like you, I also want to live in a society where people ______________________________. I think our only difference is our belief in the best way to go about it.”

Now, you’ve moved the discussion from position-based enemies to two friends who are simply discussing the best way to benefit the most people. Persuasively making your case is the next step. But, you’d have never gotten to that step without first re-framing the conversation from one of adversaries into allies.

Practice it a bit first, and then begin doing it. You’ll be delighted by the results!


Bonus video: Having any fears or trepidations regarding handling the challenging people you’ll meet at Holiday get-togethers? You might find this 2-minute video to be helpful.

24 Responses to “Influence and the “Religion of Politics””
  1. Mark Johnson said at 8:50 am on

    Thanks Bob.

    It’s frustrating. If we can get past these initial hurdles, oftentimes we can share some wholesome dialogue where maybe even some things that we hadn’t considered are discovered. It’s just a much more pleasant experience that need not be contentious.

    There are as many perspectives as there are people and I’m of the belief that that’s good.

    Another thing that can be disarming is to begin saying something like, “I don’t know and I’ve been proven wrong before…” and then continue sharing one’s “current perspective”.

    In response to the bonus video…it sure does make a whole lot of difference starting out the day or going into an engagement knowing that you’re going to have a good day no matter what prepared in advance how to respond. You might even catch yourself smiling inside knowing that the person(s) aren’t going to ruin your day or cause you to over-react.

    So much of the time we can be caught off-guard. This helps to be readied.

  2. Bob Burg said at 8:56 am on

    Mark: Thank you, both for your very kind compliments about the post and video, and for sharing your thoughts and wisdom with us. Appreciate ya’ greatly!

  3. Bob,

    You rock my friend, this is the type of thinking that gets me excited and I believe can truly make a difference in our world. To move forward, in my opinion, we must be able to move past our own belief systems and be open to learning from others.

    This may be a threat to some who currently have gained at having our political system at a stand still and keep us as a people divided. This era is coming to an end and a new era is upon us where conversations of progress will dominate the board rooms, class rooms and political arena’s.

    Keep leading the way on this type of thinking,

    Nick Pereira

  4. Bob Burg said at 9:54 am on

    Nick: Thank you. I greatly appreciate your kind feedback. The great news is that, individually, we can all do our part in helping to spread this kind of positive communication and understanding.

  5. Beth Bridges said at 10:08 am on

    I think there’s another place we can practice this, before we tackle those who utterly disagree (because this is really tough).

    When we’re talking politics with people who agree with us. When they use very negative language to describe policies or people, we should try to bring the tone back to one of actions and why we disagree with them, not insults. As in “Hey, I don’t agree with this either, but let’s not call people stupid or hateful names.”

  6. Rajib Baruah said at 10:32 am on

    Great post Mr.Bob. Received my copy “Adversaries into Allies” today. Excited to start and add one more success step in my path of accomplishment. Thank you for all that you are doing for me. Love you a lot.

  7. Bob Burg said at 11:00 am on

    Beth: Thank you. What a terrific idea!

  8. Bob Burg said at 11:01 am on

    Rajib: Thank you for your kind feedback. I hope you enjoy the book. Love you too, my friend and brother!

  9. Amy Wells said at 11:35 am on

    Right before the elections, I had a team full of college students people who were voting for who I wasn’t. 🙂 I remembered you teaching me to find common ground first, before persuasion is possible.

    I told them the things I liked about their candidate, then the things that concerned me. Every one of them changed their vote and one young lady told me she spoke with her parents and they too changed their vote.

  10. Bob Burg said at 11:38 am on

    Amy: Have I ever mentioned that…I love you!

  11. Bill Ellis said at 11:59 am on

    I have found that there are three choices when addressing opposing opinions…
    1. Per your example – be confrontational by being determined to convince the voracity of your viewpoint.
    2. Practice total avoidance hopefully with acceptance that we all have our opinions vs. the more common dismissive and cynical perspective of ‘they’ll never learn’
    3. Pursue the positive (and proven successful) method you’ve so wonderfully outlined.

    I’ve tried all three approaches….number 1 is a definite #fail; number 2 assures no common ground or mutual understanding and number 3 provides a definite opportunity for growth, understanding and mutual respect.

    Well done good sir!

  12. Bob Burg said at 12:18 pm on

    Bill: Wow – that’s terrific. Thank you for sharing that, Bill. Very well-said!

  13. Good reading and great insight Bob.

    I’ve read “Adversaries into Allies” twice. It serves as a great reference tool and reminder for me.

    Your points remind me what I like to refer to in the coaching world as “creating a safe space”.

    I could be wrong about this but in my experience, people, for the most part, want to open up, explore, and experience. However, none of that can happen if they feel threatened, judged, or made to be wrong.

    The right words, used in the right context, can create a space the size of a landing strip.

  14. Bob Burg said at 2:03 pm on

    Joel: Thank you for your kind feedback about the book, and for sharing your wisdom. Right on the mark!

  15. Doug Wagner said at 5:19 pm on

    I’ve observed much the same. Most people want similar over-arching things. Happiness. Safety. Take care of family. Etc. Paths diverge on how to get there.

    I agree with Bill Ellis. Only option three moves the discussion forward.

    Great post Bob.

  16. Bob Burg said at 6:16 pm on

    Doug: Thank you. You said it very well. It’s usually more about the path than about the big things. And, how we approach it makes the difference!

  17. I love how you break down the process to help with mutual discourse over disagreements. If more people used this process, we’d see much calmer heads prevail and less trolling around the internet.

  18. Bob Burg said at 6:20 am on

    Joseph: Thank you. I greatly appreciate your very kind feedback. Hopefully these articles – and the new book – will make a dent in that regard!

  19. Jeff Shore said at 10:22 am on

    Just went through this episode with our new (socialist-leaning) son-in-law. At one point I put a sudden stop to the conversation and said, “Can we all agree that first and foremost we love each other and will continue to do so?” It was a great way to keep perspective.

    Great post, especially given the scary subject matter!

  20. Bob Burg said at 10:38 am on

    Jeff: Thank you for sharing that with us. I can tell that must have taken a LOT of self-control. And, you did it! This is one reason why you are such a great leader. Hopefully, as time goes by and he remains secure in knowing that you love him regardless of his political leanings, he’ll be open to understanding some of the logic as to why socialism ends up hurting everyone…especially the poor. And, why true, free-market capitalism (not to be confused with cronyism) is actually the most beneficial and benevolent system for all (except for the politicians and cronyists). 🙂

  21. Tom Hawkins said at 7:48 pm on

    Thanks for the tip. It makes so much sense. I like to engage people in politics or religion or economics online. It’s interesting how very smart people can be so blind about these subjects (I’m always right, you know ). From now on, I will soften my tone and use this method..thanks…and see you in Charlotte.


  22. Bob Burg said at 10:52 pm on

    Tom: Thank you. Good for you. Looking forward to hearing about your results. See you at the event in Charlotte next month. Should be a lot of fun!

  23. Vicki said at 8:49 pm on


    I so love your suggestion to “play it out in your mind as if you are responding beautifully.”

    As someone who — until the recent past — has made a habit of shooting herself in the foot by reacting rather than responding, I found another method that works: In the moment, before I “react,” I take a moment and ask myself, “How will this turn out if I get all emotional rather than asking clarifying questions of the other person?” Without fail, when I think about how it will turn out if I react, I quickly realize, “Oh….that is NOT a road I want to go down!” I don’t know why, but for me visualizing the NEGATIVE result of what will happen is more powerful than visualizing the positive result. The negative result playing out in my mind is like a whap up along side the head to tell myself, “Why are you even THINKING of taking that approach?!) LOL!

    When I do find someone pushing my buttons, for me the best way to handle it is to ask a question such as, “Oh, I never thought of it that way. Can you explain to me more of what you mean?” Just asking that quesiton gives me time to refocus to a more positive approach. Or, if someone has DONE something I am angry about, rather than let emotions of hurt or anger get in the way, I now (most of the time–I’m not perfect at this) will try to simply explain my emotions calmly, then ask a question. (For example: “When you did such-and-such, I was really hurt because it seems as if__________. Knowing you, I’m sure it wasn’t your intent to hurt me or violate my trust. So, can you give me some insight as to why you did that?” I have found this approach usually results in a productive discussion that often deepens the relationship. And I always learn something new about the person–usually something positive.)

    I think it takes several years for people to (a) realize they are reacting, and not responding, and (b) to form a new habit of response.

    Great timing for your video with the holidays coming up. 🙂

  24. Bob Burg said at 9:55 pm on

    Vicki: Thank you for sharing with us. Very appreciated!

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