How to Deal With an Angry Crowd Is Much Better Than Marco Rubio
Survivors of the Stoneman Douglas High School massacre yesterday met with their Senator Marco Rubio at a CNN City Hall meeting. Not everything went well (for Rubio). In fact, he and NRA spokesman Dana Lesch were ” ridiculed and read ” in a forum attended by survivors of the shooting and the father of the girl killed in the massacre. The New York Times notes that they “knew full well that they would be attacked by a swarm of people directly affected by the mass shooting last week.”
It got me thinking: how can an ordinary citizen prepare for such a confrontation? These questions are, of course, best answered by politicians and ex-politicians, so I got in touch with Michael Dukakis, a three-term former Massachusetts governor and 1988 Democratic presidential candidate.
Don’t be morally bankrupt
My words, not the governor’s. He said, “If you take Rubio’s position, don’t be surprised if people get angry. This is a stupid position, this is a shameful position. “
In other words, don’t defend what cannot be justified. If you are going to a meeting or forum, make sure you are confident in your mission and your position – that this is smart and that you can live with yourself at the end of the day. If you know deep down that you are fundamentally wrong, the meeting will be much more violent.
In this case, the question becomes less “how can I survive this meeting” and more “how can I rethink my life?” And if you’re Marco Rubio, well, Dukakis says, “If a guy like Rubio wants to defend his position as a gunman, then he shouldn’t be surprised that people are outraged. I am outraged. Children, parents and teachers are outraged. “
Be prepared to listen to more than what you say.
Assuming you are dating in good faith is a serious assumption, but stay with me – it is better to listen to what other people have to say than to just defend your position over and over again.
“Ask questions,” Dukakis says. “I was not the best listener in the world when I started politics. Over time, you will become better at listening and you will discover two things: first, listening is less tiring than speaking, and second, you hear something from people – in many cases people who know a lot more than you. “
There are answers
You know what this meeting is about and you probably know why your audience is angry. If you are a boss or in a leadership position, you need to be ready for decisions. (Obviously, this doubles if you are the elected official.) Dukakis says of the Parkland massacre and town hall: “If something terrible happens and you have no answers for these kids … don’t.” Don’t be surprised if people get angry. They need answers. “
Get your audience to help solve problems
If you really care about handling complaints from your audience and solving problems – again, a big if , but suppose you do – you need to work together. Dukakis proposes to create a task force for problem solving. “[When I was the governor], we never took the political path without putting together a working group of people who disagreed with each other many times when we started the process. But over time, in many cases, we were able to come to an amazing consensus. “
Whether you are in a professional environment that has become hostile or in a stressful family situation, it is critical to enlist the support of others to solve problems. Dukakis is optimistic that in most situations there are more points of contact than we think. “The vast majority of us hold many similar views [and once we realize this] we can start working on solutions. How can you look at this [weapon] situation and not be horrified? The answer is to sit with people and say, “What do you think we should do? What is reasonable? What would be effective? “
He continues: “The great thing about political responsibility is that you can do it. I don’t remember anyone whom I asked to join these working groups, who said: “Fuck you, Governor, I don’t want to participate”. Americans don’t. They want to solve problems. “
“If [Rubio didn’t], he made a serious mistake.” He pauses. “Of course, if you do, you have made a commitment to offer some solutions.”