Originally published 12/3/10
How do you build your political alliances and move your projects and ambitions forward? You need to build up a balance in your political checking account. Tactic #5 for political neutrals is all about making sure you'll have allies when you need them.
Can you build alliances without lending support to others? Sure, but mutual support is the glue that holds alliances together. Without sticking your neck out for others a bit, they're not likely to stick their necks out for you.
So how do you do this effectively?
First, you need to give before you get. You need to demonstrate your commitment to other people and their agendas before you need their support. Will you get burned by doing this? Sometimes. There are power players out there (especially street fighters) who will gladly throw you under the bus if a situation presents itself where it is to their clear advantage to do so, regardless of how much you've supported them in the past. But if you don't start lending support, then you consign yourself to the virtual sidelines. Then you only play the game when someone else gets hurt, and then probably without a team behind you.
Second, build most of your alliances with other neutrals. By eschewing the more dangerous and distasteful tactics used by power players, you make yourself an easy mark if you ally too closely with these creatures. Besides, you can count on things like friendship, sense of obligation, and fairness to help you with neutrals. Those things might or might not matter to a power player.
Third, lend lots of moral support. This can be in the form of a shoulder to cry on, a counselor, a behind the scenes ally. This costs you very little, is low risk, and can pay dividends in the long term. I'm almost temped to advise you to agree with everything your allies do behind the scenes, but most neutrals need to maintain a certain connection with those things they think are fair an right. So instead, do as much of this as you can.
Fourth, just as with many of the other political tactics, select your battles carefully. You will find there are times when you need to lend public support to allies. Do so sparingly, causing as little offense as possible, and making sure you know the implications of your actions. Most people can accept a position taken against them, if it is taken on principle. Make sure the underlying rationale for your actions are sound.
Fifth, lend support to those you've opposed in the past. Opponents in a minor skirmish doesn't have to mean enemies forever. Stay engaged, and continue to lend support to erstwhile opponents when it makes sense.
Master this tactic, and when you find yourself in a political jam, you'll have plenty of friends to help you escape. Ignore it at your own peril.