Written by DiveThru Team
Reviewed by Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW
How To Start Talking About Climate Change
Published Mar 1st, 2021 & updated on Dec 8th, 2021
So you’ve been educating yourself on climate change and doing tons and tons of research on the best ways to help save our planet. Recycling, composting, thrifting and eliminating single use plastics from your life are just the tip of the iceberg! You now consider yourself to be an environmental activist who’s ready to do what it takes to make this world a better place — and you know that means that you want to start talking about climate change with others. You want to get the people in your life aware and onboard with this SUPER important cause. Buuut sometimes it’s easier said than done! How do you even go about sharing all of your climate change knowledge with your family and friends? What if they dismiss your ideas or don’t seem interested in what you have to say? How do you inspire them to make their own lifestyle changes without sounding, well…super aggressive and preachy?!
First of all, can we just say how ahh-mazing you are?! We think it’s so inspiring that you’re making a conscious effort to reduce your carbon footprint. Every small change makes a huge difference in the long run, so keep up the good work! We’re so proud of you! NOW…here are some tips to help you get your climate conversations going.
How To Open A Conversation About Climate Change
When you start talking about climate change with your loved ones it can feel really intimidating. While it’s something you need to get off your chest, the anxiety around how and when to start the conversation can be a lot. You don’t wanna seem too intense or turn them off from the subject forever. Or worse, potentially ruin any of your relationships because of a major disagreement.
But the good news is — most people tend to be more open to new ideas when it’s presented to them by someone they know. Sooo, you do have an advantage here! As long as you go about it the right way, you have a really good shot at opening their minds on this topic. We’ve got some tips for you and we’re hoping they’ll make the initiation of this tough conversation way easier (and more likely to be successful):
1. Set The Tone
Whenever you approach a touchy subject, the last thing you wanna do is come across super aggressive and mean. It’s awesome that you’re so invested in saving the planet! While your dedication and commitment can shine through, make sure the overall tone of the conversation is neutral and free of judgment. We’re looking for healthy communication here. Bring up the conversation in an open-minded way: Hey, I’ve been learning a lot about the environment and would love to try talking about climate change with you — if you’re up for it! This approach highlights that you want to share your interest without being a preachy know-it-all.
2. Hear Them Out
During this conversation, try to listen and understand their point of view. Chances are, they probably have their own preconceived notions about the topic of climate change that are different from yours. Keep in mind that while you’ve been researching and developing a better understanding of climate change, they might not be as informed yet. That’s why you’re bringing it up in the first place, right? To drop some truth bombs! But ask about how they came to their conclusions so they feel heard: What makes you feel that way about it? I want to understand where you’re coming from.
3. Acknowledge Their Feelings
Topics like climate change can be kinda polarizing. Your friends and family might have opinions that differ from yours, but that’s okay! The point here isn’t to have them completely agree with all of your ideas. Maybe you’ve adopted a vegan lifestyle because you have researched the impact of the meat industry on climate change. But that type of change isn’t realistic or sustainable for everyone! They might think that you will judge them or expect them to do too much in order to be a good climate activist. Instead, acknowledge their feelings about it: I can understand why you’re hesitant to talk about this, but I’m not here to judge you! Your feelings are valid.
4. Ask Questions
To make the conversation less one-sided or lecture-like, ask questions about their views and what they think. Don’t assume you know the reasons behind their opinions on the subject. If you really want a healthy conversation on the topic, show interest in understanding their perspective and how they’ve come to their conclusions about climate change. Making sure they feel involved in the conversation shows you respect their opinions, even if you’re not entirely on the same page: What are your thoughts on climate change and activism? What can we do about climate change? Why do you think that?
5. Share Your Side
This topic clearly means a lot to you, which is why you’ve decided to bring it up with the people in your life. Hey, that’s great! Your family and friends love you, so they’re gonna be more receptive to your ideas than you might think. Explain to them why talking about climate change, and climate activism, is so important to you. Maybe you’re super outdoorsy and love spending time in nature, and the thought of our planet suffering is making you suffer. Or your house is covered in plants because anything green (even a tiny forest) makes you so damn happy. Or maybe your compassion for animals knows no bounds and you want to advocate for their rights. It could be that you’ve just always had an interest in the environment but the effects of climate change have pushed you more into the activism space. So share your thoughts and feelings about it! It will show them how much this subject means to you and how important it is to hear you out.
6. Know How to Present The Facts
When you’re talking about climate change with people who aren’t so passionate about it, you might hear a lot of questions like this: Why do you care so much? Isn’t it kinda too late to do anything about it now? How do you know that what you’re doing will help anyway?
Sharing your thoughts on climate change also means bringing the knowledge to back up your claims. Have those facts lined up to make your point! And in the same breath, don’t forget not to overwhelm everyone with too many statistics. Harsh truth but we tend to tune out people who just blab a ton of facts. Try this instead: That’s a common misconception but I’ve actually found that to be untrue when I was researching ___. I can share the article with you if you want? It was a great read!
7. Challenge Their Ideas
It’s safe to say that many of us don’t like confrontation. It’s uncomfortable. But, when approached right, a conversation doesn’t have to become an argument. And conversations work both ways! You’ve gotta be open to being challenged as well. So, let them share their thoughts without interruption. We know it can be hard! What if they are SO in left-field?! Your time to talk will come. Once you’ve heard them out, try to reposition their points.
8. Make It Personal For Them
People have an easier time discussing new ideas when they can relate. So make things personal (in a good way!). Ask how they think climate change will affect the future of their families, their livelihood, and their life overall. If they love to travel, climate change will affect the places they’re able to visit in the future. Outdoor hobbies like fishing, camping, hiking and skiing can also be impacted by climate change. Explain how we really have no life without this planet, which is why it’s so important for us all to work together! When you reframe the topic as something more personal, they’re wayyy more likely to take interest.
9. Encourage Action
Okay, so they’ve heard you out and they wanna start doing their part to act on climate change. But…they aren’t sure where to start. Maybe they’re worried it’ll be too difficult or unattainable for them, or that any effort they make won’t matter in the long run. Remind them that every small change counts, even everyday switches like taking the bus instead of driving or swapping out plastic grocery bags with reusable ones. Invite them to some of your environmental volunteer commitments! Make sure they know they’re not alone in this so that the transition is 1000x easier.
10. Be Open To Future Conversations
If talking about climate change doesn’t go great the first time, don’t sweat it! It takes practice, but you’ll get the hang of it. And if it went pretty well, that’s sooo amazing! Either way, make it clear that you’re open to more conversations about climate change in the future and that you’re available for any questions they might have. Now that you’ve planted the idea in their minds, give it some time to grow! They might just need to process what you’ve shared before they decide to get more involved.
No matter what, it’s so incredible that you’ve decided to start talking about climate change. This is a subject that affects us all (and affects our mental health!). So props to you for wanting to get the people in your life involved in climate activism, even if it’s baby steps. You’re changing the world as we know it!