5 Tips on Talking Politics in a TOP way

They say that it is rude at a dinner party to bring up money, religion or politics. Well, we want you to break that rule. As history has shown it is really hard setting up a political party. Reaching the 5% threshold is a huge challenge for newcomers. Even more difficult is the fact that we are trying to reach that goal on the back of evidence-based policy, rather than personality, polling and populist ideas.


If The Opportunities Party is to be a success, people need to start talking about politics. At dinner parties, the water cooler, online or at the pub, it doesn’t matter. Here are five tips on how to talk about policy to your friends.

1. Be Nice

Change is scary. Humans tend to overestimate the downsides of change, and underestimate the upsides. If someone thinks they have something to lose from a change, they might initially react with fear, or even anger. So it is important to be nice.

Most people think they are doing the right thing in life, and they certainly don’t set out to do nasty things. Generally they are just responding to the incentives that surround them. Challenging the status quo is important, but we have to do it without making people feel ‘bad’ for the choices they’ve made. If we have to lay blame for the problems in our society, blame the rules of the game, not the players.

2. Talk ideas and policy, not personality

Don’t get bogged down in the detail. Just think about the principles. Is our current way of doing things fair? Are we delivering the best possible economic, social and environmental outcomes? Can we do better with some smart thinking? 

These days we are beset on all sides by personality politics. Public relations and communication advisers swarm around Government Ministers and Opposition MPs, trying to manage people’s perceptions of them.

I doubt anyone is following The Opportunities Party because of my personality, but just in case you are, let’s be clear: it isn’t about that. The Opportunities Party will not provide a refuge for career politicians. This is about making change to policy, not ego. So keep the conversation on point by talking policy, not personality.

3. Stick to the Evidence

If you disagree with someone, it might be because you don’t think their idea will work. If that is the case, tell them why. Cite the evidence if you can; that is the great thing about the internet, this stuff is so easy to find.

4. Avoid name calling and pointless Left/Right tribalism 

I’ve been called a socialist, communist, anarchist, neo-liberal… you name it. The Establishment parties feed off this sort of tribalism; people vote for them because of which team they want to be part of.

Name-calling and pigeon holing people is pretty tiresome and brainless stuff. The modern world has moved on from these simple categories and labels. It is about time politics did too.

If you disagree with someone, take a moment to consider why. If it is not because of the evidence as stated above, then it is probably because of your values. Can you clarify why you disagree by talking about what you do value? If you value something like freedom, what does that mean? The total absence of government interventions and public institutions, or government providing the basic means for people to achieve their own goals? What would a world look like if everyone had your values?

5. If you disagree, you still have your vote

At the end of the day, everyone is equal; one person one vote. The Opportunities Party only needs 100,000 votes to make it into Parliament. We don’t need to convince the whole country. So if someone doesn’t like what we have to say, that is fine, they can vote for someone else! There is no point trying to flog a dead horse. Leave them to the status quo Establishment parties with the Lao Tzu quote:

“If you don’t change direction, you may end up where you are headed.”


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Showing 46 reactions

  • Ernest Horwood
    followed this page 2016-11-18 17:07:05 +1300
  • Oliver Krollmann
    commented 2016-11-18 17:02:16 +1300
    Wallace, do you have an example or two what constitutes Industrial Exclusion?
    I’m struggling to understand what it is and where the government obstruction comes into play.
    Apologies if this is a silly question …
  • Win
    followed this page 2016-11-18 16:53:11 +1300
  • Paul King
    commented 2016-11-18 16:53:02 +1300
    Evidence-based political policy – wow!
  • Tom Butz
    commented 2016-11-18 16:39:37 +1300
    You always play the ball, never the man. True for football/soccer and mainly true for rugby.

    If you’re honest – much like Winston Peters – people will end up listening to you. It helps if you have a
    provincial background in a school that also produced a famous All Black (Putaruru College) and
    lived in a bus for a few years (a not so upmarket kind of flatting) and are a ‘bikie’.
    Gareth, your economic background would definitely be in your favour.

    You need to stay out of ideology: in ‘Ánimal Farm’ they cliaimed 2 legs bad, 4 legs good. Or in Rogernomics,
    government bad, free enterprise good. The first one only slightly more nonsensical than the second one.

    Common sense should always prevail: JFK was right when he said: Don’’t ask what your country can do for you
    but what you can do for your country. I’d add: do something for your country/company/community first, then

  • Wallace Gordon
    commented 2016-11-18 16:28:29 +1300
    Well said. I’ve been fighting the Government on behalf of Plumbers Gasfitters and Drainlayers for nearly a decade and have found the worst obstruction is what we term Industrial Exclusion. This is where the Government does and says nothing because they know your actions are governed by your income.
  • Nick Allan
    commented 2016-11-18 16:13:39 +1300
    Some good advice, and not just for Political discussions. Liking what I hear so far, look forward to the policies.
  • Ian Butcher
    followed this page 2016-11-18 16:12:47 +1300
  • duncan cairncross
    commented 2016-11-18 16:11:21 +1300
    Excellent ideas

    One of my bosses had a policy –
    When we had a disaster or big problem he would bring a stuffed teddy bear and a piece of rope along to the meeting,
    First item on the agenda was to blame the teddy bear and hang it from the door frame
    Then if anybody started any blame games or anything that was not devoted to fixing the problem he would point to the teddy bear and say we have fixed that now we move on

    Worked really well
  • Oliver Krollmann
    commented 2016-11-18 15:58:07 +1300
    Looking forward to the release of the policies and some good discussions, too. Really keen on seeing something different, after decades of tribalism, left-or-right generalisations, and old-fashioned and out-of-date approaches to connect with voters.
    I’ll also add the Lao Tzu quote to my repertoire of funny notes and quotes, so thanks for that. Haven’t heard that one before, only a similar one that goes like this: “If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.” But that’s more for people who don’t have a direction at all …
  • Oliver Krollmann
    followed this page 2016-11-18 15:51:48 +1300
  • Peter Jamieson
    commented 2016-11-18 10:04:06 +1300
    Really looking for to the policy release , then I’ll know what we’re actually talking about. LOL.
    Keep up the good fight TOP team.
  • Russell Ward
    commented 2016-11-18 02:04:51 +1300
    I like " The Opportunities Party will not provide a refuge for career politicians. " Garth, I’ve not been a particular fan but you are growing on me. You’ve nailed it imho.
  • Lynnette Ebborn
    commented 2016-11-17 18:21:51 +1300
    Great advice. Pity that some Government employees do not have this on board at meetings.
  • Peter Jamieson
    followed this page 2016-11-17 17:46:08 +1300
  • Murray Pearce
    commented 2016-11-17 13:24:30 +1300
    Great guide for productive evidence based discussion