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But living rooms are the ideal venue for meeting with opponents. It’s not up to you whether your opponents invite you to an event in a meeting hall or one in somebody’s living room. and you should be prepared for what you thought would be a dozen people in a living room to morph without much warning into a hundred people (plus a few reporters) in a hall. Validate the reasonableness of substantive concerns even if you can’t validate their accuracy. I’d think twice before agreeing to appear on a radio talk show with three parents who think your facility gave their kids cancer. Refusing is bound to give them a new talking point: “What is the XYZ Corp. The main exception: a media ambush where you’ll have no chance to make your case (or even to finish a sentence), while your opponents will be free to play on the audience’s emotions. Don’t do anything that smacks of spying, even if it’s completely legal. Of course if you want to talk strategy or something like that, let us know and we’ll leave.” Don’t go incognito.But getting invited onto your opponents’ turf poses special problems and special opportunities. The more fully they realize the extent of their own control, the better.
Probably they just want to berate you and see how you take it. Three things: to listen to their concerns and grievances; to show that you are listening; and to respond in ways that won’t add fuel to the fire … You can’t accomplish these things if you’re not there.
Sometimes they’re organizing and leading the opposition. The back room of a restaurant or a church basement is a better venue than an auditorium.
Sometimes they’re the target of the opposition’s greatest outrage … Any venue where food and drink are permitted is better than any venue where they’re not.
“We may be able to respond to questions if any arise, but mostly we’d like a chance to listen, to get a firsthand understanding of people’s concerns.
If you weren’t invited but you want to come, ask permission in advance, or at least announce yourself and ask if it’s okay to stay.
But I’m grateful that you invited me.” At a minimum, don’t imply that you’re delighted and fully comfortable.