Regardless of what you think about President Trump, you have to admit one thing – he’s really good at controlling the narrative. It’s a strategy of his actually (I don’t have proof of this, but hey, who needs proof these days, right?).
Just about every day, you can see a tweet, or a statement, or something come from the White House or the POTUS’s twitter account.
Of course, this isn’t new. Obama did the same thing, so do many politicians. There is an underlying unspoken belief that plays out here – If people aren’t paying attention to me, I must not be important.
Don’t like it? Then stop responding. Responding is not the same as leading. Leading means moving and directing others in a particular direction, towards a vision, carrying out a mission.
No worries, there are plenty of people who will respond. But then again, you can’t lead if you are busy responding all the time.
You aren’t going to change the person who controls the narrative – why would they change – they are controlling the narrative and people are responding.
Instead, change the narrative around you and when you absolutely have to respond, do so, but do it in a way that draws the narrative back to what you want to talk about. Someone asks you a question about Trump, answer, but then shift the response to what you are trying to accomplish.
Here’s an example – Let’s say you care deeply about education. Someone asks you a question asking you what your favorite tree is. A possible (fictional) answer might be “I love maple trees. They remind me of when I was growing up. We had maple trees all around our school. The teachers would bring us out side and we’d enjoy their shade and we’d study them. They were an important part of my education. And that’s why I think we should all be supporting the legislation to increase funding for our schools (or whatever is your thing). Kids need a solid education so they too can learn about the trees and create memories they can share with their kids.”
Of course, I just made that all up, but I think you get the idea. Or here’s one that directly deals with the question at hand. Someone asks you what you think about the wiretapping that President Trump accused President Obama of. Let’s assume I really care about faith formation, which has nothing to do with this situation. Here’s how I might answer. “yeah, that a weird situation isn’t it? It certainly raises a lot of questions about trust – trust of government, trust of the executive branch, trust that what the President is focused on, etc. And you know, trust is important – it’s how we build up a civilization. And it goes far beyond politics and government. Which is why I’m deeply concerned with faith formation in our church. You know, faith and trust are intimately connected. Faith is a gift from God and trust is our response. I want to work with people who want to build an environment of trust within the church so that it can impact the broader community in which we live. I think faith formation is one way to do this.”
Now you might be sitting there saying – “You didn’t answer the question.” And my response is “No kidding.” You might call that spin doctoring. I call it “I don’t feel like talking about and spending energy on stuff that I have no influence over. I’d rather focus on what I’m called to focus on.” Does that mean we should never respond directly – No. It just means that often, we respond without needing to. The responses become a distraction from our real work – building a better world.
Change the narrative when you can. Others might not follow suit or join you. That’s fine. Some will, Some won’t, so what, what’s next?