Chapter 35 Sections
What are some general ways to fight these tactics?
What are the ten D's?
Specific strategies for responding to opposition tactics
In community work, there's almost always someone opposed to whatever it is you're doing. Even if your goal is something everyone can agree on, there will be those who disagree with your methods for achieving it. When your opposition starts fighting your efforts, it's best to be familiar with what tactics they might use to do so and how your group might most effectively respond.
What are some general ways to fight these tactics?
There are a variety of tactic-specific ways to deal with each of these forms of attack. Some strategies that apply no matter what tactic is being used include:
Understand your opponent and his/her/their strategy
If knowledge is power, ignorance is weakness. An opponent you understand is much weaker than an opponent whose every move baffles you. Understand your foe's beliefs, background, and position. This will put you in a stronger position to respond to attacks. It can also increase your organization's image as an intelligent, rational group. What does your opponent believe and want? Does your opponent come from a cultural or ethnic group different from your own; and if so how might this affect dealings with your organization? Does your opponent have a history of acting (or reacting) in a certain way? You may be able to determine some of these things from your own history with the person or organization in question, from the experiences and personal knowledge of friends and colleagues, from newspaper articles, from corporate PR materials (if you're dealing with a company), or from campaign literature (if you're dealing with a candidate or elected official).
Turn negatives into positives
As the saying goes, when the opposition gives you lemons, make lemonade. The ability to turn any negatives you are given into positive situations is a very powerful ability for your organization to have. For example, you might use the utility company's opposition to a program to provide heat subsidies to poor people as an excuse to set up a review of the company's records of utility shut-offs to heighten awareness of the problem.
Set the agenda
If you are meeting with the opposition, your organization should establish or influence the agenda. This way, it will be your group that controls the meeting; you, and not the opposition, will have the chance to be on the offensive, which is always the stronger position to be coming from. Further, if you allow the opposition to set the agenda, chances are good that some of the important points you wanted to discuss won't even be brought up.The opposition will naturally use their "home court advantage" to talk about their strengths, rather than points they may be weaker on.
Publicly state the opponent's strategy
This makes the opposition's tactics seem clearer to all of the members in your group (and therefore easier to fight). It is also a great way to win sympathy and respect from the general public. This is particularly true if you are a relatively small group fighting a larger agency or corporation in a just cause. Everyone wants to root for the underdog; giving your battle a "David and Goliath" image can do a great deal to further your cause.
Some of the information you should
consider making public:
- What your opponent has said or done
- Why it is untrue or unjust
- What is true and/or equitable
- How the truth affects you and your opponent
For example, a fair employment practices committee meets with directors of their company about the small number of minorities hired by the organization. However, in the meeting they find themselves sidetracked by a talk on the new "cultural competence" seminars being given. At the end of the meeting, the directors leave saying that by meeting with the committee, they have done their job - even though nothing was really accomplished. Instead of dropping the matter, however, the members of the committee let the directors - and the press - know that the company was doing nothing to address the issue.
Be judicious when it comes to going public. You shouldn't do this every time; it can make your group look reactionary and whiny.
Keep your opponents off balance
Don't rely on the same approaches all of the time. Instead, constantly take the opposition by surprise. This can not only can help in your current battle, it will help your group avoid stagnation. If you tried to privately negotiate a solution last time you butted heads with the opposition, this time you might go public with the situation. Or, you might ask for a third party to act as a facilitator. Be creative, and don't be afraid to try something new. Leaving your opponent in a cloud of uncertainty of what your tactics will be this time is a powerful strategy on it's own, and gives you an advantage over the opposition before you even start.
Learn from the past
If an organization has a history of responding in a certain manner, chances are that's how they will respond again. Know the history including the preferred tactics of the people you are battling - and know how your organization has traditionally responded. That way, you'll be thoroughly prepared for what is likely to happen, and you'll be more likely to avoid any pitfalls you've fallen into in the past.
For example, an organization was trying to reduce the number of billboards advertising beer in a low-income area of the city. When advocates for the group did their research, they found that every time anyone had complained about the number of billboards in their community for any product (beer, hard liquor, tobacco, or anything else), the marketers invoked their right of free speech. Knowing that in advance, the advocates were able to formulate a strong response to the beer company's free speech argument before they met the opposition, and were eventually successful in limiting the number of alcohol-related billboards in the community.
Be willing to compromise
Your opponents may be willing to work with you in good faith, particularly if you have run a good advocacy campaign. Keep an eye open for situations that might turn into a chance to work together. Be careful that by saying cooperation, your opponents don't really mean capitulation to their interests. But be careful, too, that you are open to any legitimate possibilities for making a deal that come your way. If an opposition leader states publicly that some of your ideas have merit, that could be the olive branch you've been waiting for to achieve peace, and also reach some of your goals.