Communicating climate change well to other people is a skill that many people lack. Conversations like these often end in people getting overly defensive, upset, and shouting. You might be the biggest climate change expert, but without good communication, that won’t matter.
There’s no point in knowing all these facts and statistics if you can’t get the point across for everyone to understand. The way you speak will differ from audience to audience. For instance, when you are speaking to children, scientists, or business people, you will use a different tone of voice and emphasize different points.
You need to connect with the people in front of you. That’s the most important thing to remember. So let’s get the most effective ways to communicate climate change.
Principles Of Effective Communication
There are some effective communication techniques that you need to be aware of. These are general things you need to be doing when talking about anything but that can also be applied when talking about environmental challenges. Keep reading to find out my own personal tips.
Don’t be patronizing and make the other feel person feel stupid for not knowing something. Take the opportunity to explain. If the person in front of you doesn’t respect you, they will never listen to you. Mutual respect is the core of every good conversation.
Every time you join a conversation, you should enter it with an open mind. There is more than one point of view and one that you perhaps haven’t thought about. So expect to learn something new and don’t shut down any ideas straight away just because you don’t agree with it.
Use pictures and other visuals to convey a message. Communicating climate change can sometimes be hard, which is why using visuals can be very helpful. For example, instead of explaining to them what coral bleaching is, show them a picture of it. Using pictures also triggers an emotional response. It can be very effective to convince people to act as it shows them exactly what is happening around the world instead of just showing them a graph. People can ignore statistics, but they can’t ignore explicit evidence of how thousand of hectares are exploited every day.
It’s a two-way discussion. If you want them to listen to you, you must also listen to their opinions. This is often hard in this context because to you it might seem absurd for someone to ignore climate change. However, if you don’t listen to them, you have no chance of persuading them because you won’t know why they think what they think. You could learn a lot by talking to climate deniers and use it to your advantage.
05. Body Language
It’s not only about what you say. Good communication also requires good body language. The way you move your body and your hands can make you seem more confident and can make you a more likable person. It’s a skill that takes practice but it will become second-nature to you if you practice enough.
Say it as you believe it (because you do). If your audience isn’t convinced that you care about climate change, they will probably not care about it either. Project confidence in your voice and the way you stand. Don’t shy away. After all, the point in these conversations is to convince people of how pressing climate change and educate them on the importance of acting.
07. Be Clear
This is a very important part of communicating and even more so when the topic of conversation is climate change. Get to the point. Don’t confuse anyone. If you start with complicated facts, you will have already lost the battle. Make it easy for people to understand. No one likes being talked to in a manner that makes them inferior. Always be clear and if they ask questions, try to be as concise as possible. Answer their question, don’t go on a tangent.
Be understanding. Empathy is a crucial skill that you will need in life. It allows you to understand what the other person is feeling. It’s easy to dismiss other’s points of view sometimes, but remember that there are things that you don’t know that they might and besides, you don’t know their circumstances. Try your best to understand their point of view.
09. Ask Questions
What better way to understand the other person’s opinion than to ask questions. Ask them why they believe what they believe. Find out the reason they don’t want or can’t change their habits and lifestyle. When you have the answers to your questions, you can explain to them and share stories as to why climate change is such a pressing concern and even give them tips. Not everyone has the privilege to choose sustainable options because of a lack of money or simply because they don’t have access to it.
10. Don’t Be Technical
Use statistics and facts only to reinforce your point or to add effect when telling a story. Spluttering facts everywhere and telling them every piece of statistic that you know will not change their mind on this.
On the other hand, if you take a more personal approach and tell them how it will affect them and their families, they will probably do something and start acting.
My Personal Tips
Now, I want to take the time to talk about what I have found out from my personal experiences. These are my personal tips for communicating climate change more effectively.
Statistics alone can’t convince anyone. Sharing personal stories or other people’s stories about how climate change is affecting them can be very powerful. It brings human emotion into the conversation and that’s something that can’t be denied. You can say all you want that the statistics are wrong but you can’t deny people’s stories because they have gone through it themselves.
It shows that climate change is real and is affecting people as we speak. Move away from the science for a while and speak to them on a deeper level.
Judging the person in front of you is probably the worst thing you could do. It doesn’t matter if you disagree with everything that they say. This is your time to change their mind. Stop judging them because maybe they don’t know or understand the full complexity of the situation.
Have A Conversation
It’s not a competition or an argument. If you try to argue and keep telling them why they are wrong, you will simply drive them away even more. The more you force these ideas on them, the more they push back. Next time you talk to someone about climate change, have a conversation, not an argument.
If you’re like me, when you hear people deny or ignore climate change, you get a bit angry and have the urge to shout because they are not helping the planet. Nevertheless, that is counterproductive. You won’t convince anyone like this. Remain calm and let your stories and pictures speak for themselves.
Also Read: What is Eco-Anxiety and 10 Ways to Manage it
Talk About What You Know
Use your strengths. What do you know really well? Talking in-depth about what you know, shows that you have taken the time to educate yourself and that you really care. Talking about as many different things as you can, is not as effective. At least that’s what I have found from my experience. Moreover, when you don’t know something, tell them. Don’t pretend that you have all the answers. It’s a complex issue and not everyone can know every single detail of climate change and its effects. Pretending to know something is only going to lead to the spreading of misinformation.
Offer A Solution
Ok, so you convinced someone that climate change is a big threat to our future. Now what? Well, you need to offer them a solution and tell them what they, and every other person needs to do to help improve the situation of the planet. If you don’t make them aware of what they need to do, they will keep going about their day-to-day life as normal, without caring about the impact of their actions.
The whole point of communicating climate change is not only to make people more aware of the problem we are facing but to urge people to act.
Find A Common Interest
Find something that you both have in common. Is there something that you both enjoy? If there is, use it as a pivot to talk about climate change. It could be a hobby or just a general interest. Tell them how it will be affected by climate change in the future.
Tell Them How It Benefits Them
This is one of my favorites. What people don’t realize is that by helping the planet, they are also helping themselves. It can save them money, make them healthier, and reduce the number of toxic chemicals they are putting into their body. Tell them what’s in it for them because unfortunately, not everyone will care about how climate change will affect people across the world or future generations.
If you are struggling to convince them, tell them how climate change will affect them and how helping the planet can actually make their lives better.
Talking To Different Audiences
Now that you know the most important skills for communicating climate change, let’s talk about something even more important which is knowing how to speak to different audiences.
It’s important to know how to talk to different types of people who are of different backgrounds, are of different ages, or have different jobs. All these (and more) will influence the way you talk to them.
The key is to use words that your audience will understand. Telling kids complicated facts about climate change will not persuade them. Telling them that climate change might make polar bears disappear will most likely make them sad and make them take action.
If you are talking to business people, you could talk about the economic benefits of green solutions. Know what your audience cares about. Once you know that, use it to tell them how it will be affected by climate change.
While most individuals are now aware of climate change and are trying to do something about it, there are still people who either ignore it or don’t act on it because to them it’s an ‘inconvenience’.
Communicating climate change is not the easiest of things because of how controversial it used to be in the past. There’s a stigma attached to it and what kind of person you need to be to care about the environment.
If you improve your climate change communication skills, you might be able to inspire a lot more people.
Communication, in general, is a hard skill in itself. Adding climate change into the mix makes it even harder. But don’t worry. The more you get used to talking about this topic, the better you will become at it.
All images from Unsplash