October 2022: Talking to Friends and Family About the Environment

Hello, friends and potatoes!!!!!

In our final three months of the year (😱), we’re focusing on how to talk to people about the environment. This month, we’ll start with conversations with friends, family, acquaintances, strangers, and all other potatoes of the world. The environment can be difficult to discuss, and while there are always people who refuse to listen, there are many skills that can help conversations to be productive and enlightening and not devolve into unpotatoishness. We hope you’ll find time to have these important (if sometimes unpleasant or perilous) conversations with people in your lives, especially with family during the upcoming holiday season. It can be scary, but we believe in you!!

Our communication sales pitch

Communication holds such power (mwahahahaha). This is your chance to convey the importance of the environment and sustainability, what individuals and societies can and should do, and so much more — simply by taking an idea from your brain and placing it in someone else’s!!! 🧠 And even if the goal is not to change someone’s mind, it’s important to challenge people’s (including your own) mindset, because how else could we evolve and change?! 

Alternative ways to let your voice be heard

But really, do not underestimate your voice. There are so many ways to share information and your ideas and experiences about the environment! We know that talking to people can be stressful and terrifying for many, and while we believe in you to brave that peril, we’re not going to force you. But! There are many more ways to advocate and spread the word, including writing to decision-makers, blogging/social-media influencing, casually talking to people, attending meetings, making art, and so much more, which we’ll be covering in the upcoming emails! 📱🎨📖🙋📣 Also, here’s a blog post about friendly ways to educate people about the environment, including living by example.

When having a debate or trying to persuade someone, it’s most effective if you give clear reasons, even if taking care of the environment seems like common sense to you personally. Effective debating skills also help to prevent misunderstanding and keep the conversation civil. And don’t worry — it’s a learned skill! You can practice with your friends and family, but even if you don’t, these will become easier and more habitual with time.

As important as it is to have a strong argument and accurate information, it’s also important to hear the other person out and communicate respectfully. You may not want to go into the conversation to change someone’s mind, but rather to understand their point of view, be inspired by ideas you hadn’t thought of, or convey your perspective. Even just talking about the environment more is helpful to keep it in our consciousness. It may or may not change anything — and that’s okay! It will probably be thought-provoking for each of you, at the very least.

Steps to keep in mind when disagreeing:

  • State what you believe and why
  • Answer any clarifying questions
  • Invite them to respond
  • Actively listen to the other person
  • Summarize what the other person said to check that you understood correctly
  • Ask clarifying questions if needed
  • Respond directly to their argument (not them as a person or how they said things) with your counterargument

Tips for talking with others about the environment:

  • Fact-check your information beforehand and make sure you know the basic facts and statistics. That said, it’s okay if you don’t know something — we’re never done learning!
  • Anticipate and respond to counterarguments: When going into a conversation, especially with the goal of convincing someone or imparting information, make sure you have the information and talking points to respond to people’s counterarguments so that you won’t be at a loss and their villainous plan will not succeed (though they don’t necessarily have bad intentions, so we recommend assuming the best of them until proven otherwise) — look back at our general talking points and compile your own!
  • Have an open mind (even if you will not agree): By being willing to glimpse the other person’s world, you encourage them to do the same, and even if you fundamentally disagree, you can still learn something
  • If you don’t know something, say that! You can always look it up and come back to it, and being honest will create trust 
  • Hear the other person out: If you want them to genuinely consider your perspective, you must be willing to do the same
  • Think through what the other person says and respond directly to it (and ensure that they are directly responding to you): One way that people can avoid uncomfortable truths is deflecting or using logical fallacies to respond to something you didn’t say. If someone does this, you can respectfully point out where they’re missing what you said and clarify. Also be sure to make sure you’re correctly understanding what the other person says by asking them clarifying questions
  • Ask why they believe the things they’re saying and what led them to those conclusions: Asking the right questions can be powerful in getting someone to reëxamine what they believe
  • Acknowledge your emotions but don’t let them control you
  • If you find yourselves misunderstanding each other, summarize what the other person said to make sure you understood correctly: This can be really helpful — sometimes it’s just a matter of interpreting something differently, and you might actually understand each other a lot more than you realize!

And yet, sometimes there are people who are unwilling to listen, to believe science, or to change their opinion, no matter how compelling your argument is or how well you deliver it. And that’s not your fault! That is their choice, and you can at least be content that you did your part. Maybe it will still have some impact along the way! 🌱

Taking care of yourself

Conversations and conflicts can be very challenging to navigate; being respectful, dealing with emotions, and articulating what you want to say are all tricky. But it can be an opportunity for mutual growth, and discomfort is actually what makes our brains grow most!  But those conversations could potentially come with costs. If it will be unhealthy for a relationship, or a bad choice for your mental/physical health or safety, you should always consider when to continue. And when conflict shifts into arguments, it is best to pause them and respectfully check in about continuing. Nothing will be productive if you’re being triggered or in panic mode, and it’s always okay to say you need to pause. It’s best to be direct and let the person know why you need to leave, but if you need an excuse, you can say you need to go to the bathroom or make a call. Some people might interpret your leaving a conversation as anger or frustration, so try to clarify that you are leaving so the conversation doesn’t devolve. If you’re able to, you can then come back to it when you’re in a better frame of mind and less overwhelmed by your emotions.

So, it’s important to know how to set boundaries for yourself, to say you need a break, or to avoid the conversation.

Our goal for this month: Try one new way to spread the message about the environment to those around you!

We hope this was helpful, and that it inspires you! We think the world can improve if we learn to understand each other and work together. 

Together, we are the core / Of the change we’ve been waiting for! 

— WhateverPotato ☂️

Be a potatooooo and happy fall!! 🍁🎃

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