Avoiding the Thanksgiving Nightmare (Makayla M. - Nov '19)

Published in the Stevens County Times

Many know a climate change denier personally, but speaking up about your beliefs amongst friends and family can be a scary thing to do. However, speaking up is vital to raising awareness and reaching a common ground. In order to help you share your beliefs, I’m dedicating this letter as a how to talk about controversial topics. As a college student I’ve debated in the National Forensic League, and studied interpersonal communication. I’ll use what I’ve learned to help make your political conversations more productive this Thanksgiving.
The first step, remember this isn’t a fight. If you begin with accusatory or defensive statements, your friend will do the same. Assuming they have ill intent will immediately put them on the defensive, which shuts you out of their beliefs. If shut out, what you say will have little influence on their opinion.
The second step is to ask questions, get to the root of this skepticism in order to understand your friends denial. Doing so will lead you to the solution they need to hear to understand climate change better. Furthermore, your willingness to listen will make them feel more comfortable opening up and accepting new ideas.
The third step is to remember to stay calm. We’re not at war with fossil fuel in this moment; we are just talking. Some people may feel cornered once you start questioning them, it’s important to note their comfort levels and aim to make them feel safe enough to share.
The fourth is most vital, you must prepare your argument beforehand. Consider what may cause skepticism to climate change. Remember, we don’t have to agree to a solution yet. All we need is to agree to the cause.
There you have it, a simple guide to engage with climate change deniers. This guide can’t make the argument for you, but it can keep your environment calm, honest, and most of all productive.