Recently, through learning about Re-authoring work with Dr Chene Swart, I’ve taken a deep dive into learning about how I can play a more significant role in helping people have dignified conversations (individually, in organizational work and in communities) and creating the narratives we want more of in the world. I found this video because I was initially looking for narrative and re-authoring work done around climate change. Right now, I’m on a search for how to we create a narrative around the climate crisis we are facing that is useful and can get everyone behind, that isn’t highly polarized or that isn’t “change” versus “no change” or “environment” versus “economy/jobs.” I found this video in my narrative search and sent it to my good learning buddy and experiential tourism and community development coach, Celes Davar. Celes picked it up immediately and summarized it in words for people.

Thank you to research of Dr. Renee Lertzman, who’s an expert in the psychosocial aspects of climate change communications. Thank to you Celes for summarizing and thank you to the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) for creating this.

Guest post by Celes Davar, Earth Rhythm’s

This short video was very helpful for me to be reminded of a better way of having a conversation about climate change (actually about anything). So, I thought I would repost it, along with a written summary for anyone who wants to copy and paste it into their phone for immediate reference, for that time when you want to have a conversation about climate change.

The Secret to Talking About Climate Change with Others.

How to Make People Feel Safe and Not Defensive

Think of all the things you want to say about climate change, and don’t say them. If you just go off talking about how bad climate change is, people are going to just shut down. They may feel attacked and put up their guard. It doesn’t matter how eloquent your words are, or how many facts or evidence you have. If the other person is not listening, there is no point.

The secret to talking about climate change is to listen to the other person.

It’s the most important part. The goal is not to convince the other person of your perspective, that’s all wrong. The goal is to have an actual conversation. And that only happens when people listen.

  1. Don’t ambush people. Hey, can I talk to you about something? Do you have a few minutes right now? Something’s bugging me…can I talk to you about it? (Note: distractions make talking and focusing hard. So, ask if we can turn off all devices first.) Once you have their attention…
  2. Start with a question about climate change. Remember to make it about them, not you. What are your thoughts about climate change? Are you worried about global warming? When they start speaking, we have one job – JUST LISTEN. Resist any urge to respond right away. Whatever you do, DON’T INTERRUPT. Especially if you have strong feelings, or the other person is saying something you disagree with.
  3. Just listen. Be open to what they are saying. Be open-minded, and non-judgemental. (positive or negative judgement-This takes work.) Note: If the other person doesn’t say much, that doesn’t mean you can step in and say – OK, my turn.
  4. It’s not your turn until you learn something about the other person first. Encourage them to say more by asking follow-up questions. Ask about personal experiences. What have you heard about climate change? How do you feel about that? Compared to your childhood, are today’s winters any different? (No need to go into science or politics.)
  5. Reflect back what you heard them say. Referring and repeating their words let’s them know you are listening to them, and you care about their point of view. What I’m hearing you say is… Is that right? Like you said… That’s a good point. I never thought about that. You demonstrate that you care about their point of view. It makes them feel valued and safe. When you earn their trust, they will be more willing to open up and listen to you.
  6.  After they have shared their perspective, then ask if you can share yours. Can I tell you what I’ve been thinking about? Sure… Now, it’s your turn. What will you say? Remember, the point is not to convince the other person of anything. If you try to do that, they may become defensive, and stop listening. Just share what you personally think about climate change. You may not be a climate expert, but you are an expert on yourself. 
  7.  Now, tell your story. When did you start caring about climate change? What worries me the most is… 
  8. After you’re done talking, ask them what they think. Turn it back to them, and LISTEN. That’s what a conversation is, a two way exchange of ideas. Go back and forth for as long as it feels right. Learn from one another. At the end, thank them for talking. Thanks for taking the time to talk…I appreciate hearing your perspective on… I learned more about….
  9. One conversation that allows for listening may open the door to more climate conversations in the future, and that’s how you build trust.
  10. Talk to someone about climate change. It may be one of the most important things you do.

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