10 Habits of Highly Effective 'Personal Advocacy'

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Published in Israel Campus BeatSeptember 5, 2012

Relationships make the world go round. A well-placed relationship can land you your dream job, get you a better grade in a class or get your article or poem published.

Relationships are also key to effective pro-Israel advocacy, but somehow we often pay them short shrift. We get very involved in putting on the big I-fest or speaker program, and forget that what really moves people are the relationships we form with other individuals and groups on campus. We at The David Project spent the summer speaking with top thinkers and professionals in the art of relationship-building and relationship-based advocacy. Here’s the advice that we received:

[This is the fourth installment of several 'Summer Series' articles, written by campus and organizational professionals who are uniquely situated to comment on the state of Israel advocacy on college campuses across the US.]

1. Go on a listening campaign. Reach out to active individuals and groups over a cup of coffee. The more conversations the better. Always end your meetings by asking for others you might talk to.

2. Seek partners with shared goals. When strategizing about long-term engagements with others organization, consider not only the influence and following of the group or individual, but also the potential for reciprocity and shared interests moving forward. It’s much easier to maintain a relationship when you can support aspects of their agenda as well.

3. Do your homework. Prepare for the meeting by doing a little background research on the Internet on the people and groups you are meeting with, but don’t make assumptions about them.

4. Listen before speaking. Listen first, but know when it’s time to drive the conversation. Good date analogy: Listen 60%, talk 40%. Ask questions about the person and his or her group, and repeat back to them what they said. Your goal is to figure out what makes them tick.

5. Be open and real. Be open and share so that the person you are meeting with will do the same.

6. Introduce Israel in terms of your own values. Speak first about Israel in terms of your own journey, narrative and values, rather than beginning with arguments or messages. Practice articulating your personal narrative about Israel.

7. Connect with their values. Link your values—and Israel--to theirs. Show that even though you come from different backgrounds, you bring similar values to different challenges. Seek ultimately to frame Israel in terms of their worldview and values. If the discussion is centered on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, express compassion for Palestinian suffering.

8. Be transparent about your goals. Don’t hide your intentions and goals to move the discussion about Israel in a more positive, thoughtful and nuanced direction.

9. Present Israel as a complicated but decent country. It’s ok and potentially even effective to express misgivings about specific Israeli policies. Because pro-Israel students have diverse views about Israeli actions, recognize that some pro-Israel students may be better than others in speaking to specific individuals or groups.

10. Humanize Israelis. Show that Israelis are real people and not just soldiers. Speak more about Israelis than Israel. Be a character witness.

These 10 “habits” will help you (and your pro-Israel group) not only do better Israel advocacy, but be a more effective all-around person. Let us know how it’s working for you!

VIDEO: You can watch David Bernstein in action here