ADVOCACY IS BUILT ON RELATIONSHIPS
By Kelly Basile
It all comes down to relationships. Building real connections is the key to progress—and that is done when we sit down together and listen. This is not a new concept, but it can be intimidating if you don’t know where to start.
I loved this latest conversation on the State Chamber’s podcast so much that when I heard it back this week, I found myself taking notes—even though I was the moderator of the original conversation! This exchange between myself, Senator Sarah McBride and Verna Hensley of Easterseals Delaware & Maryland’s Eastern Shore was so organic and stimulating, that I decided to write down and share my key takeaways:
BUILD RELATIONSHIPS BEFORE YOU NEED SOMETHING
Don’t wait until you have an ask to develop a relationship. Those initial touches (invitations to events like a ribbon cutting, coffee meetings, attending their constituent meeting, etc.) become the basis of the relationship. And remember that policymakers are people too. Something as simple as sending a note—a quick text, email, or comment on social media—shows you’re paying attention to what they’re doing and appreciate their work, and it can go a long way.
GET TO KNOW POLICYMAKERS IN AND OUTSIDE YOUR DISTRICT
Remember that the policies worked on at Legislative Hall don’t just impact the district you live or work in, they impact the entire state. Getting to know the legislators who represent where you live and work is incredibly important. But so is building relationships with the policymakers who sit on the committee related to the topic you care about—health care, transportation, environment, veterans’ affairs, and more. Do not limit yourself to a relationship with one or two people, there are 62 members of the General Assembly who can be your advocate.
FIND THE THINGS YOU BOTH CAN AGREE ON
Quoting Senator McBride here: Remember we can disagree agreeably. There are many things two parties can still agree on, and identifying what those things are is how you build a base level of trust. That preexisting relationship allows you to navigate through tougher conversations. And it’s so important to have more than one opinion and ways of thinking respectively at the table because that is how real and good work gets done.
BALANCE FACTS AND DATA WITH EMPATHY AND COMPASSION
The power of storytelling is real. As Verna so eloquently explains in the episode, if you want to have a lasting impact, the relationships you form will help legislators see a face when they think of an issue. Yes, data is important when making a point and showing the significance of a topic, but empathy and compassion allow for people to truly connect.
Give this episode of Conversations with Kelly a listen. It may inspire you, like it did for me. You can play an active role in shaping the future of Delaware. When we have conversations and learn from each other, it results in not only better policy but a better path to progress.
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