Who should you discuss climate change with?

In the past I have considered how, for some topics, certain individuals are more easily persuaded compared to others. Karin Kirk, in her article for Yale Climate Connections, introduces the spectrum of persuadability. There is a good figure in her blog post illustrating the spectrum. As Kirk explains, the spectrum of persuadability includes the following groups moving from most persuadable to least:

  1. Informed but idle
  2. Uninformed
  3. Misinformed
  4. Party-line follower
  5. Ideologue
  6. Troll

According to Kirk, the ideal candidate is a person who is “informed but idle.” This seems logical because the knowledge is already present, so the only thing needed is motivation to act. There are many ways to inspire action, but what is more important is consistent action over time.

When someone performs an action consistently, it is because of a habit or multiple habits. The real problem then becomes one of habit formation. There are many ways to form new habits including Charles Duhigg’s framework of cue, routine, and reward.

I recently found the framework in this blog post, by James Clear, to be particularly helpful for habit formation. The basic premise is that habits should start easy enough that it is impossible not to complete them. Next, the habit should be slowly increased each day. One example Clear uses is flossing. On the first day you would only floss one tooth and each day you would add another tooth. According to James what is most important is that you are performing the habit consistently over time. He uses the phrase:

“I am building the capacity to do work.”

These ideas can be applied to the habit of taking action that supports climate change. One example is writing a letter to the editor. Maybe you want to develop the habit of regularly writing letters to the editor. This habit could be broken down into consistently reading published letters, and consistently writing. To start you could read past letters for two minutes. If your goal is reading for 20 minutes a day, you would be there in 10 days. The same idea can be applied to writing. You could start with a couple of sentences, words, or time spent, and gradually increase the amount.

But before you suggest ideas to develop habits, or talk about possible actions, it is important to have a good conversation with this person. After the person talks to you they will remember how you made them feel. This is one reason why good conversations are so important. In a Ted Talk by Cleste Headlee, as discussed in a post by Jason Kottke. She lists 10 ways to have better conversations:

  1. Don’t multitask
  2. Don’t pontificate
  3. Use open-ended questions
  4. Go with the flow
  5. If you don’t know, say you don’t know
  6. Don’t equate your experience with theirs
  7. Try not to repeat yourself
  8. Stay out of the weeds
  9. Listen
  10. Be brief.

Two of these I personally struggle with are number 7, and 8. Which numbers do you struggle with? How can you improve on your conversational weaknesses? Being a good conversationalist and understanding different ways to form habits are both valuable tools for communicating with others.



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