3. Be A Partner, Not An Adversary
To get a congressional staffer to work on your behalf, think about what he or she wants most, and then see how your issue can help meet the staffers desire. According to Carnegie, “When we can combine our desires with their wants, they become eager to work with us, and we can mutually achieve our objectives.”
Congressional staffers are just like the rest of us; they want to do a good job for their bosses. Anything you can do to help them succeed in their job is going to go a long way to building trust and starting a relationship. Once you have established a relationship with a staffer, keep them updated if there is an event in your district the member of Congress might want to attend, forward them an occasional article in your local paper that is relevant to a policy they work on, or let them know how an upcoming vote is going to impact people in your district. These types of interactions will make the staffer more eager to work with you.
Also, don’t forget what we learned in the How Congress Works section: Members of Congress Care MOST About Being Re-elected. If you can position yourself as a supporter, and that you are there to help their boss succeed as a legislator, they will be grateful and willing to support your issue.
For example, let's say you care deeply about the environment but live in a district where there are a lot of coal miners. Instead of criticizing your representative for supporting the coal industry and polluting the environment, try to empathize with all the coal workers who lost their jobs in the last 15 years.
A different (more effective) approach would be to convince your representative to support renewable energy efforts in your district. You can persuade him or her that renewable energy will create jobs that will help the voters who are looking for work. You don’t have to get into an argument about whether climate change is real, whether the EPA should regulate air pollutants, or whether coal is dirty or clean. Instead, you find common ground and make progress on your issue while aligning yourself as a partner to your representative.
To help emphasize this point, ask yourself which person below would you be more likely to help out?