By Maida Milone
When you believe something makes great good sense, you imagine the path to success being a straight line to the goal. That’s rarely, if ever, the case, of course. The natural confidence you feel when tackling a project can cause a trick of the mind, a belief that others will immediately see the logic of your position and share your passion for it. The disillusionment that follows their failure to adopt your plan wholeheartedly or to be cajoled into following you regardless of their questions or concerns can create rifts. Those rifts lead to paralyzingly partisanship or raised voices or stalemates, but never to consensus.
Coalition building is hard work, especially when what you want to accomplish has no natural constituency. It requires active listening, not that pale substitute of making eye contact while you are formulating your next point regardless of whether it is responsive to what the speaker has to say or not. No one changes their mind or finds their way to a different perspective if they are not heard.
Coalition building requires respect for those who disagree with you, even if they seem stubborn or unwilling to hear your arguments. They might have a good point or expose a flaw in your thinking that your enthusiasm blinds you from seeing. And while the experience of cognitive dissonance—that knot in your stomach that follows your recognition that someone else might have a good point and that you just might have to rethink or revise something in your plan—is so very hard to manage, it is an essential part of getting the job done well.
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Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts is a statewide nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to ensuring that all Pennsylvanians can come to our courts with confidence that they will be heard by qualified, fair, and impartial judges
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