How should we go about it?
Take a breath. Take three breaths. Walk the dog. Then respond with truth and respect even if the other person shows none. Surprise people with stories, wit and charm. Nobody ever changed their mind because of a Facebook response from a stranger beginning “Well, actually…” -- remember that people operating with incorrect information are victims of media gaslighting. We’ve provided some ideas and information below, but don’t just cut and paste things, speak truthfully in your own voice. Listen to the story of the other person, if possible, and find points of agreement.
If you are very new to XR, please read key parts of the website, including the demands and our Principles and Values . Try putting these into practice, for example thinking of: ‘We welcome everyone and every part of everyone’. Speaking from personal experience and showing the different backgrounds and stories of those involved might be as important as the discussion itself. The climate crisis is an issue for every single person on Earth and no individual is responsible for it.
Engage with people
Be friendly, polite, and witty. This is important for everything else to work. Having a curious and open attitude are key. Genuinely listening to people and their concerns about change with curiosity is helpful. People find it hard to accept change about things that are widely accepted to be harmful even when misinformation is not a widespread issue (think smoking in western countries) let alone an issue where ignorance, fear and misinformation from key figures are widespread. It also can help you to empathise with them.
Genuinely listening means holding space. It means not formulating a response until the person has said what they need to say, then deciding how to respond when they are done. Open questions such as 'what is important right now?' 'how should these issues be addressed?' 'how can the way we address things improve?' (you never know, you may come across some helpful ideas)
Acknowledge that this is a difficult reality to face for a lot of people. Simple reflection involves stating a person's concerns back to them e.g.
Them: What is the point?
You: 'you don't believe we can address this?'.
Click to see more examples...
More complex would be:
E.g. You are concerned that we're in a situation that we cannot deal with for our future so would rather focus on what is important here and now
The point is to infer the rest - they will let you know if you are mistaken, but if you're right they will carry on the conversation.Educate but don't keep trying to force people to accept your reasons for change; plenty of people know smoking can be harmful to their health, but if you keep telling them why they should quit they will automatically take the other side of why they should/want to keep doing it/can't stop unless they are already motivated to make changes (however they are most likely ambivalent about this because they're not sure how). Same with engaging with climate activism (and that involves many changes at individual and system levels), not just one by an individual).
It can be better to ask 'what positive social changes would you like to see', 'if we were to have a magic wand which addressed these issues what changes would have happened, in your view', ask for an elaboration.
Then think about what XR are trying to achieve in relation to that and link the two, and even if it's not but it's relevant to the campaign then make a note to pass it along. If the change is not relevant in some way, then acknowledge it, thank them for sharing it and leave the door open for if they want to discuss what change in relation to climate action might look like. Not everyone is ready or motivated, but you've opened that door to further engagement.
We have some ideas of what can make change difficult so use that. Ask the person, what they feel are the 2 most difficult obstacles then say something like 'you want to see positive change happening in xyz area and ABC makes that tricky' (do not use the word "but" in place of "and", as people will not listen to anything before that word). A "pros and cons" list of change can be helpful to acknowledge ambivalence (but not too long!). Then ask for a bit more elaboration on what desired change looks like.
Even if they say 'xyz makes it difficult', they're imagining it. Ask them what would help. Gain permission before you provide any suggestions and find out what, if anything they know about your suggestion before elaborating on it. E.g. can I make a suggestion about what might help? Them: okay. You: The UK has a lot of wind power available, which you might have heard about before. Can I ask what you might have heard about this before Them: rattle it off You: Fill in gaps, address misinformation etc
Then you, this is what we would like to achieve with our movement. Would you like to ask me any questions about this and what we do/why we do it this way?
This is a more digestible and collaborative way to share information
Ask people what they value Most people value their security, family, ambitions etc. Then link what you are aiming for to those values. Also talk about what XR values to build their empathy towards you, e.g. a safer and healthier future for everyone, particularly younger generations.
Also ask if they prefer subsidies going to fossil fuels or building more sustainable infrastructure for example. Most people want that. Building empathy for others including younger people may also help. Remember to show that you are concerned for everyone's welfare including theirs and that we are open to doing things better to achieve change. Remind people of what we want to achieve. Sometimes people will not want to listen though and it can help to check in with yourself to be able to sustain efforts.
Example from Apple training Apple stores have scary training on how to deal with customers, but a really important bit is about empathy. For example;
Customer: This Mac is just too expensive. Apple store staff member: I can see how you'd feel this way. I felt the price was a little high, but I found it's a real value because of all the built-in software and capabilities.
Invalidating someone’s feelings and experience means they won’t listen to anything you say. They may have badly incorrect information but there’s a lot of it out there and we can help with that, if we show respect and empathy even for people with very toxic views. Don’t give people the argument they want.
Don’t insult people even if they are very very wrong or mean. Don’t always feel the need to reply, trolls are in this for fun - often responding to a troll with a reasonable comment and then not engaging in an argument will look excellent in the eyes of other people reading your interactions.
Sometimes it might be easier to link to a blog or youtube video and say “this explains it much better than I can”.
When in doubt, just follow the guidelines in this doc. As moderators we often have to distance ourselves from our personal opinions and in a way totally ignore the topic itself to just focus on whether or not the "rules" are being followed. So even if you don’t like someone’s comment or the way a thread is developing, if it doesn’t violate our guidelines, just let it be.