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How to Have a Useful Conversation About Climate Change in 11 Steps

Climate change can be an emotional topic. Here’s how to approach it

Dan Rubin, PsyD
Mar 7, 2019 · 6 min read

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As a psychology professor, I always try to listen to what my students are teaching me. For example, I used to poll my classes and ask everyone, “Who here tries to change their partner?” Almost everyone would raise their hand. Then I’d ask, “Who likes it when their partner tries to change them?” Nobody raised their hand, but there were always a few knowing chuckles.

After working in mental health and education for 20 years, I’ve learned that nobody likes being told what to do. When we want to talk about climate change with friends or family, or even with a stranger on social media, I think we too quickly launch into a proclamation of the superiority of our opinions. We lecture more than we listen and this gets in the way. A key question is this: How can we have productive conversations about climate change that result in people feeling more engaged, informed, and willing to do something different?

Here is an 11-step guide that will get results:

1. Know thyself

2. Having a conversation about climate change takes practice

3. Begin by asking for consent

4. Be a good host

5. Begin by asking, “What do you know about climate change?”

6. Ask: “How do you feel about climate change?”

7. Ask: “What do you think we can do about climate change?”

8. Ask: “What do you think you can do about climate change?”

9. Ask: “Would you like to learn more or do more about climate change?”

10. Ask: “Can we talk about this again sometime?”

11. Continue to talk about climate change.

Written by

Clinical psychologist in private practice. Let’s talk about climate change. Twitter @dan_psyd

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