Humanist Guide to Engaging Conversations

Engaging conversations surrounding climate is crucial in the fight against climate change and forwarding the environmental movement. You are not only learning how to communicate about climate, you’re also informing and learning from others and their experiences! Whether you are hosting a living room conversation, engaging your reading group, or mobilizing your local chapter, we have some tools for you.

How Do I Start?

The first step in having a conversation about any topic is educating yourself. Take time to reflect on your own personal experiences with the environment as well as read, watch, or listen to media that shares the experiences of others. If you’re not sure where to begin, here is a list of materials regarding climate and sustainability to get you started!

So you believe in climate change and want to do something about it? That’s great! Communicating is one of the best ways to incite action, but it can be difficult to engage others that do not share the same values as you. One approach to speaking with one who may not see climate change as a threat is to find shared values with that person and relate to them about it. If you both have children, talk about your children, and then move into how climate will affect their future.

Having conversations involving climate change and action can also be energizing. Here are some tips and guidelines to keep in mind so that there is room for all voices, a key component to a healthy conversation. 

  • One person speaks at a time while others listen objectively and deeply, without planning their own response. Leave pauses between statements to give everyone a moment to consider what has been said. Be patient if there are many people wanting to talk and it takes some time to get to you.
  • Avoid interruption, cross talk, and side conversations. Allow each person a chance to be heard and speak.
  • Use “I” statements (I think… I feel… I wonder… I had an experience once…) rather than “you” statements or abstract theoretical arguments.
  • Speak and act courteously using respectful language void of prejudice or insult, especially when expressing dissent. Avoid personal attacks or evaluating or behavior (you’re right/wrong…). Instead respond by sharing what bothers you about it, what you like, or what further thoughts it inspires in you.
  • Ask someone to clarify what they have said or try to rephrase it without judgment (I think I am hearing you say…).
  • Keep an open mind! Respect opinions that are different than yours. You may find you question your beliefs and re-evaluate previous assumptions. We seek to understand others and gain a broader knowledge of the full humanist spectrum. Avoid broad, general statements and try to be as specific as possible with your observations and comments. Details resonate, and more easily allow the participants to make personal, meaningful connections when their voices are heard and respected.

Additional Resources

Engaging in conversation with differing opinions? Check out these tips to make it a successful conversation.

Check out this document that dives into the “Six Americas” and climate communication.