I was delighted that politics got a little interest. As I said in my comment earlier, I don't hate politics - I just hate losing at politics. [I don't know what I have about redeeming lost-cause words, but here I go again, trying to redeem the second least favorite word in english (behind lawyer.)] I believe politics has a bad name because it is wrongly confused with Bullying, Bureaucracy, and Manipulation.
When the strong get power or want it, they force the weak (whether by personality or position) to kowtow to their desires. Thereby the powerful grow more powerful.
When the careful get power or want it, they force the hurried to jump through hoops. Thereby they gain more control.
When the friendly get power or want it, they create the illusion of gain for the greedy. Thereby they are carried to power on the backs of others.
I contend that these are all exercises of the "might makes right" kind. They are hopeless for us Christians. If we prevail by these means, we have shamed ourselves, and the kingdom suffers.
Politics is the incredibly complex art of learning what everyone's needs are, and figuring out a way to meet them all - including your own.
The Two Great Laws of Politics
1) Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
2) Love your neighbor as yourself.
Whenever you are in a group of two or more people, you have a chance to honor God and bless those people. Coworkers, brothers, or family, there's bound to be a problem that needs an answer that works for everyone.
And no, it is not easy.
Most people, you see, hate politics. Instead, they spend their waking hours trying to defend themselves from bullying, bureaucracy and manipulation. They assume that the politician's intent toward them, your intent toward them, is evil. As you go through the political process, you will need to learn to get over, around, or otherwise behind those defenses before you can even start. You have one immensely powerful tool, though.
Anyway, the process is quite simple. It's just hard. Rather like lifting a giant rock is simple, but very hard.
The Political Process
1) Realize that every other person in the situation believes himself to be perfect.
1a) Realize that your assumption that you are perfect is as wrong as theirs.
2) Realize that everyone has a goal in mind, but that they are telling you something else. They are walling themselves behind a hedge of unreasonable demands.
3) Dig through the hedges to whatever their goal really is. Everyone's goals that is. Here is where you need that tool. The tool is listening - really intense listening. You have to keep asking questions and probing to find out what the real motivation is. If you are listening for "openings," you will not succeed at this process. You need to be listening with the two laws in mind. You are listening for what it will take to protect this person's needs and dignity. And you will have to work to convince them that this is what you are doing. But once they are convinced, the rest of the process goes pretty easy.
4) Discard your own hedge-goals, and find out what you really need.
5) Remind yourself of your essentially selfish motivation. You want what you want, and you will only get it if everyone else gets what they want first. But don't let go of what you want. You need that motivation to put up with the sewerage you might have to wade through when it comes time to convince everyone that they are not going to get shafted in the end.
6) Stew for a while. It is seldom obvious how to solve the puzzle that everyone's complex needs creates. Stew out loud. This is very important. Don't go away, and come back with a perfect solution. Nobody will go for that. Instead, put the puzzle out on the table, always being sure to express everyone's needs richly including your own. Emphasize for everyone why their needs cannot go unmet.
7) Someone will have an idea. Never, ever, ever say, "No," no matter how dumb the idea is. Work it. Throw it on the table. If the idea really is dumb, someone else will say so for you, and in the process trust will have been built. Everyone will see you are not going to embarass anyone for opening their mouths. And embarassment is the biggest killer of all progress.
8) Eventually, someone will have a good idea. You will see how it can work. Everyone will begin to see how it can work. Don't get silly here. Make sure it works for you, too. If there is anyone for whom it does not work, make sure that is acknowledged, and hopefully fixed. If not, come up with a compensation of some sort that makes them happy.
9) Make sure everyone gets a share of the credit for the final solution. You don't need any credit. You just need all these people to trust you and work with you next time you need something. So, make sure their bosses know how easy they were to work with, and how pleasantly surprised you were at how the solution "just happened like that."
It really works. Once you get in the habit, it's really that easy. Of course, there are wrinkles to talk about. What about trying to fix long-term problems? What about trying to push change through? What about dealing with actual enemies?
And this is all kind of new to me. It was in 1997 that I was kicked out of leadership in my church because I was a bully with bureaucratic tendencies. (No one ever accused me of manipulation :-) I never, ever used to listen to my "opponents." A) They were opponents to me, not allies, and B) I had too much to say. I actually believed that I was right all the time. It wasn't until I started doing this stuff that I found out, "Hey, that moron's idea was an improvement on mine. Hmmph."
There is literally not one member of my twelve person team who has not improved one of my perfect ideas (often in brutal ways, especially at first.)
Anyway. I don't know if that's interesting to anyone else, but it really is my favorite thing to be confronted with an oppositional situation and see what there is to be found. There's usually some gold out there waiting for someone with their thinking cap on.