Winning Hearts (Without Losing Your Mind)

The Australian same sex marriage postal vote is underway and, if you’re anything like me, your fitness tracker thinks you’ve been working out approximately 40 times a day due to your heart rate and blood pressure spiking every time you get on the Internet.

So, stepping away from the venom in the comments, what’s going to actually help in the longer-term?

What result do you really want?

YESRemember the goal. There always the temptation to try to beat an opponent into the ground, but is this actually what you want?

There is an excellent conflict resolution book called Crucial Conversations and their advice is to keep thinking about the outcome you want, not just winning the fight.

In the short-term it might feel rewarding to flame and crush but chances are it’s not actually helping you achieve your goal. Well, that’s if that goal is a strong positive result voted in with as little vitriol spewed as possible at the rainbow and wider community. If you are in it for a fight, stop reading now because oh boy there is so much fighting to do.

Pick your battles

While it feels good to go in all guns blazing against that relation’s friend on Facebook, chances you’re not actually going to change their mind. What may happen is that the arguing, and tangents created, can change the point and confuse other readers to the point of listening when someone claims that you’re bullying them for their “opinion”*.

We’ve already seen lots of lies trying to turn what is a simple vote on equal treatment into a rat king of fear. We can’t beat them by endlessly arguing with their points because their points are MAD AS BALLS. Don’t waste your time on trolls and don’t waste your time on people who’ve already made up their mind. If you’re not going to do any good: state your disagreement clearly and calmly, point people in the direction of some accurate information, and move on.

Get offline

On that note, lots of people aren’t actually online all the time. 1 million Australian’s have never been online , and 34% are not active Facebook users. Spending 5 minutes on a(nother) comment on Facebook probably won’t win people over but a conversation or a phone call from someone they know and like might. Phone your family and start a conversation.

Not sure how to begin? Ask them for a favour (“I know there is a lot going on, but could you do me a favour? I’d like to tell you about me/my friend’s family and how this vote affects them.”) as research suggests that we like people for whom we’ve done favors and are more likely to listen to them and help again in the future.

Get the mail

At this point, most of the hardcore voters have voted but it is likely that many people will just not get around to posting their envelope in time. Remind people, remind them again, and offer to take it to the post office. Put your feet where your mouth is.

Use tactics that work

Insulting peoples’ logic, intelligence and morals is never going change their mind. But often it’s not about sharing the argument you find the most persuasive. Tailor your argument to the audience.

For example, some studies have found that conservatives are more likely to accept policies such as same-sex marriage if they’re framed in terms of conservative values like patriotism and moral justice. So, emphasising that same sex couples and families are already out there, and should be treated the same way in the law to cut legal confusion, costs, and tying up the courts may be more effective than appealing to empathy in some cases.

Set an example

One last way you can make your vote really count is by being public about what you are doing and how happy it makes you.

People assume the actions of others reflect the correct behaviour, especially in ambiguous social situations where they are unable to determine the “correct” course of action. In one large-scale Facebook experiment (over 61 million people) it was found people who were shown their friends have voted are significantly more likely to vote.

So get out there and vote loud, vote proud.

Just remember; no glitter, use a dark pen, don’t change the question and don’t post your ballot’s barcode in any pictures. Vote proud, but stay safe online.


* Tea vs coffee is an opinion, btw. It affects no one elses’ choices. Voting to deny people a right to exercise their own choice is actively imposing your opinion on others. Important difference. I don’t deny your right to an opinion, what I do oppose is the idea that you have a right to impose that belief on other consenting adults via our country’s legal system.