Legislator as Communicator

The job of being a legislator demands that anyone who hopes to fill the role be a capable communicator. I’m not talking about the ability to speak in sound-bitese (although there is a place for that). I am talking about the ability to send and receive messages to voters and to other public officials they are called to work with (both outside and within the legislative body they are or hope to be members of).

Sending messages requires the ability both to craft a message and to deliver it in a way that it will be understood. That’s easy to say, but doing it is tricky as the message must be understood across a variety of media. The message must be understandable when it is delivered in written articles, interviews, town halls, sound bites, and in the various abbreviated forms that dominate the realms of advertising. Publishing is very easy in this age (just ask me, I’ve been publishing thoughts for years on many subjects), but some people realize that and seem to forget that actual communication is much more complicated.

Receiving messages  requires the ability to listen, read, or observe without filtering the input to remove any data that contradicts expectations. It also requires a willingness to be open to input from all sides and to make people aware of that willingness. That openness and ability to productively engage with detractors as well as supporters is crucial for a legislator to be effective and to have the necessary information to represent their constituents.

The skills of communication are one of the qualifications of a legislator that are crucial as part of the campaign and the actual job. In fact, the skills of communication should be vastly more important in re-election campaigns than fund raising (this is less true when first campaigning for an office). The only ability that should be as necessary as communicating in a re-election is the ability to work tirelessly.

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