The Most Important Thing I Learned In SGA

There are two ways by which something can spread.

The first is by darkness.

It is by meeting others with the same hostility that they have met you with.

Fighting fire with fire, if you will.

The second way is by light.

It is greeting every person with a smile and genuine happiness despite the fact that they might have no interest in what you are saying or what you stand for.

There are endless opportunities offered by SGA.

The positions that I was lucky enough to serve in have proven to me that you can do as much as you wish to if you are willing to put in the work.

That; however, is not the big lesson behind running for an SGA office.

The most important thing is how you earn your votes and gain your supporters.

I learned the importance of this on the very first day of active campaigning when I ran for office as a freshman.

I was very eager to get my name out to people across campus and to talk with other students about our campaign’s goals for the future.

The students; however, were not always as eager to stop and talk to us.

Many times people put in headphones and walked passed without giving us a second thought.

Photo Credit: Jen Burleigh

It began to make me feel like I was doing something wrong.

While there were plenty of people stopping to talk to me who were more than interested in what I had to say, I was still insecure about those who ignored me when I tried to reach out to them.

There was another campaign member who was facing the same struggle and made a comment about how he wanted to reply to them with the same disregard as they had shown us.

Without thinking I told him, “I’m just going to be really nice to them.”

And that is what I did.

With every person that walked by I smiled at them and wished them all a good day, especially when they looked like they were exhausted or all-around defeated.

I focused more on them than I did on the campaign and I just started talking to them.

It took longer to get around to my point, but in the end, they were able to get a few things off their chests and I got the opportunity to tell them how our campaign could potentially help them in the future.

The changes in people’s responses were almost immediate.

Photo Credit: Jen Burleigh

I stopped telling them about what I was planning on doing and starting asking them what I could be doing.

I took the happiness and excitement that I had and channeled into making them happier in the end.

It would have been easy to disregard every person who disregarded me but if I did that then no one wins.

I don’t get to share my message and they continue on with whatever struggles that they are facing.

That’s why I learned to be better.

I learned to recognize their dark clouds and I learned to help them to find their light.

No one will ever fully understand what someone else is going through so the least that we can do is try to make it better instead of worse.

I made my active campaign time matter because of this and I led with the light that I had within me rather than returning the disinterest that I was occasionally faced with.

I learned to ask, “How can I help?” rather than, “Let me tell you[…]” and people actually responded.

It didn’t take long for people noticed this new found approach to getting students’ attention.

Before long, I was known as ‘the girl one who could talk to anybody’ and a ‘light’ in the campaign.

For me, that was a success.

I built up my recognition through kindness rather than coldness and I became approachable to those around me.

This has followed me throughout every leadership role that I have taken on and will continue to follow me into the future.

So when you make your way into SGA remember that a little dose of kindness and understanding can go much farther than the immediate end that comes from turning your back.

Be open with your peers and help them.

Be the one to ask what you can do because you’ll quickly find that many people are in need of a helping hand.

If you do this then you can be one of the good ones who spreads light among the dark.

You can make a difference in your position with people who support you and trust you because you helped them get through their rough patch.

You helped them to be better and through that you became better.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: LSU Student Government/ Facebook

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