The Cartier Report: How to win over opposition for bipartisan support (column) |

The Cartier Report: How to win over opposition for bipartisan support (column)

Four years ago, I was asked by The Hill newspaper to write a column about how it was that I was able to achieve such success in generating bipartisan support for controversial legislation. Given the intense political divide that we are experiencing in this country, many have suggested that I write a similar column here.

While there are still major differences in how to best move this country forward, all agree that America’s formula for success and leadership are unequaled anywhere in the world. Our highly diverse population is our greatest strength.

There is a science to communications, which has a neurobiological base; and it focuses on the interpretation of the message by the recipient and not the intent of the sender. As George Bernard Shaw once said, “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

Before we can gain support for an issue, we must first present it in a manner best understood by its target audience. The greatest chance for passage of controversial legislation occurs when all sides feel that their concerns are being addressed. Some worry that bipartisan legislation weakens their position; in reality, it is strengthened by adding relevant dimension. We secure wider support and reduced friction by enabling all sides to gain ownership of solutions, which strengthens the base for future proposals.

When we open ourselves up to new solutions, we enable the possibility of creative and innovative results, as we are all limited by our own experiences. Given the status of our national economy and the instability of world affairs, it is imperative that we consider flexible solutions, which adapt to changing circumstance. These ideas will provide a framework for that flexibility.

Focus on common concerns, eliminate reference to party or sponsor

When addressing differences between positions, it is important to focus on common concerns and eliminate reference to party or sponsor, as it is likely that the opposition had once supported the issue and may feel obligated or become defensive of a position they no longer hold.

Include most significant aspects of opposing party’s position in your solution

In order to generate support across party lines, the benefits of each issue must include elements of both positions. In areas where change would significantly alter the integrity of the proposition, incorporating the opposition’s language within the solution may provide greater clarity and possibility for acceptance. Agreement is easier to achieve when both parties feel that all perspectives have been respected.

Methodology is important

Details like precise wording, tone, syntax, cadence, venue of delivery and other subtleties differ according to global variances like culture, religion, age, region, local colloquialisms, urban or rural reference and individual nuances particular to the recipient. Even if grammatically incorrect, we must speak the language of those we are attempting to influence. We also find that responding in the same volume, using the same descriptive words, even if not our preference, will align others us with those we seek to reach.

Create passion

Don’t just focus on the technical details and numbers of proposed positions; generate emotion by highlighting the results of its implementation. The bottom line of any proposition is, “What’s in it for me?” If you can connect those answers with a deep emotional need, then you will secure passage for any proposed resolution.

All senses must be included in messaging

While targeted language is of prime consideration, subliminal messaging strategies involve all other senses. The use of body language, gestures, mirroring, even one’s clothing, will convey a subconscious message, and it all affects potential acceptance. By aligning with the audience, we create congruency and credibility, thus influence, toward favorable results.

When feasible, make the presentation multidimensional

Much has been said about learning styles in education; yet, those same influences are present in any situation involving the interpretation of new or controversial material. The strength of incorporating multiple information acquisition strategies (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) increases the understanding and retention rate of its content and increases the likelihood of acceptance.

Set the stage for maximum impact

In speeches, background sounds, colors, temperature, lighting and scents all create a subconscious impression, which will be associated with your material; you want it to be a positive reflection of your message. Things like color may affect a response; such as red inspiring action, blue is relaxing, etc. Subtle background music can easily trigger a specific emotion. The scent of cookies nearby can be comforting. Should the lighting be warm to provide reassurance, or bright to generate excitement?

Inspire your audience

Whenever possible, reminders that we are all Americans, with similar hopes and dreams for our families and communities, will always be well received. “The American Dream” inspires a collective sense of patriotism and hope. Incorporating motivational phrases and historical references, around the technical jargon of an issue, inspires action. People may not understand all the details of a particular issue, but they certainly understand how it makes them feel. We remember Reagan and Kennedy, not so much for their legislation, but for how they inspired us as Americans.

These strategies create a bond, which opens the opposition to new possibilities. Everyone loves a win-win scenario and you can create it.

Jacqueline Cartier is a political and corporate consultant in Colorado and Washington, D.C. For further information, visit She may be contacted at

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