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Open Letter To Congress On Communication

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The first election I could vote in was in 1988. All in all, I've voted in 8 presidential elections. My votes were cast in both parties. Sometimes personal issues were sidelined in favor of a vote for a president I presumed would serve our country's greater good better than mine. Not beholden to any party or policy, I have a request for Congress - please communicate better. Ameliorate how you communicate to your fellow Congress members, how you communicate with your constituents, and how you communicate to the media. The world will be watching you.

As a mediator and conflict coach, I hope I know how to communicate effectively. My charge is to help people with divergent views resolve their differences and craft a blueprint of acceptable behaviors going forward. By adhering to the basic rules of mediation, most clients successfully reach resolution while learning a good deal about others and themselves.

Since I care about this country and our global neighbors, I am sharing some trade secrets in hopes that members of Congress may read this. If any attended law school they would have learned these skills in an ADR - alternative dispute resolution - class. If they attended business school, they would have been taught them in a negotiations class. If they didn't attend either, hopefully, someone set them straight on how to communicate effectively.

1. Separate the person from the problem. Violence is a problem. Police officers, black people, and white people aren't the problem. Fix problems don't chastise a group of people.
2. Use I - messages. Take ownership of your beliefs when explaining them to peers, the media, and your constituents. It's hubris to assume that all Americans, Republicans, Democrats, or other groups ALL feel the same way you do. Please give numbers based on current/valid polls to support positions. If the majority of your constituents want something, please note and share that. If you feel it's best to break from the majority, please let me know why. Sometimes voting against the majority is the better choice for America. I'd like to have that explained to me from your perspective.
3. Be prepared to have difficult and direct conversations. My clients hire me so they don't get to hide behind the cloak of their attorneys; they deal with one another directly and honestly which usually yields a better outcome. I believe your job is to deal directly with members of Congress, the media, and your constituents directly and honestly. Don't hide behind special interest groups or lobbyists. Vote your conscious or your constituents'.
4. Treat others as you'd like to be treated. It's natural to disagree. It's not natural to call people names, belittle them, or ignore them. We may not look, act, or believe the same but we all deserve to be treated with the same dignity and respect that you'd like bestowed upon members of Congress.

I love America - blemishes and all. I respect other's opinions and rights and our democratic process. Congress should model effective communication and set the tone for the new administration. Please remember The Declaration of Independence, "all men are created equal" and "Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed". Good luck.

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