I was in Providence, Rhode Island recently on a speaking assignment. I was sitting in my hotel room when I heard some shouting and chanting outside. I went to the window and noticed a small group of people walking in a circle in front of the hotel, holding picket signs chanting something in Spanish.
Not understanding the language, and with the sound muffled through the window, I could only imagine it had something to do with a complaint about labor or something to that effect. With the police looking on, the demonstration continued for well over an hour. When it was finally over, the group dispersed, the cops left and the obvious leader of the demonstration began packing things into his small SUV.
I noticed him giving high 5's and handshakes to the demonstrators as they left and I couldn't help wondering to myself what difference he thought he had made. I'm certainly not questioning his commitment and belief in his cause, just the way he went about achieving it.
Simon Sinek has often said something to the effect that if you want change, you can either stand outside the city wall and throw rocks at it, or you can befriend the king.
There's a difference between fighting against something and fighting for something. The demonstration outside was a position against the hotel. As my friend Peter often notes, when you take a position against something, invariably there arises a counter position (in this case, hotel management and the cops). On the other hand, when you fight for something, or more importantly for someone (the workers, in this case), it becomes human.
And when it becomes human, it's easier for everyone to relate to it, because that's what we all are. Throwing rocks at the city wall makes a statement, but it rarely changes anything. Worse, it widens the rift between the two sides, making it more difficult to build trust and to cooperate. On the other hand, doing the hard work of finding commonality in cause and purpose and working together to bring that cause to life, changes everything.