Joe and I spend the better part of the weekend at the Broadbent Institute’s Progress Summit. (Joe there for work, me there for self interest).

Two of the most interesting talks I saw over the course of the weekend were the ones featuring dissenting voices – Tim Powers and Monte Solberg, who are well-known Conservative pundits, and Philip Cross, an economist speaking out about austerity.

I enjoyed these talks partly because they demonstrated exactly where many partisans go wrong during their campaigns. While these men spoke there was groaning, booing, and heckling from the crowd.

The fact is that you’ll never get anywhere in your campaign if you don’t listen to dissenting opinions and address their concerns.

Tim Powers in particular pointed out that many, if not most, Canadians don’t think Stephen Harper is the devil incarnate.

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Portraying him that way makes a campaign seem ridiculous and out of touch with reality. It’s an approach that’s never going to win over a moderate.

It can also silence the moderate voices who are on your side but fear getting the same outraged reaction.

You have to recognize and remember that some people actually just disagree with you, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re stupid or misinformed. They just have a different opinion that they have come to based on the information they’ve received and how it fits with their own views and values.

It all comes back to the most important thing Tim Powers pointed to in his presentation, the four elements of persuasion: establishing credibility, framing for the common ground, connecting emotionally and providing the right evidence.

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