November 19, 2020

Trying to Talk to Family about Climate Change? Here's How

by How to Save a Planet

Background show artwork for How to Save a Planet

It’s important to talk about climate change. But how do you talk about it with friends and family who don't believe it's real, or don’t think we can do anything about it? We hear from a father and son who successfully navigated this conversation, and we bring you step-by-step tips from an expert on how to have a conversation where both sides actually hear each other. Maybe try it out this socially distanced Thanksgiving!

Here are the six steps outlined by Steve Deline with the New Conversation Initiative on how to have difficult conversations about climate change.

Step 1 – Set realistic expectations for yourself!

Your initial goal should be to lower the temperature around this issue. Even if you just succeed in attempting to talk to them one on one, or expressing a DESIRE to do so, that’s an important step forward! Do NOT set yourself an expectation that you will change how they feel about climate all in one go! 

Step 2 – Find a buddy!

Find someone you trust and feel comfortable with who’s down to be your support before and after having a challenging conversation with a friend or family member. Talk to them about what your fears are, and name some goals for what you’re doing to make this one go different. 

Step 3 – Find a quiet moment to talk to your family member

Ideally do it when you can be one on one, NOT surrounded by the whole family at the actual Thanksgiving table! Be direct and say “Hey, I’d love to find a time to talk more about this.” So that they have a chance to opt in.

Step 4 – Listen!

When the time comes to talk, start by letting them know that you really want to understand how they feel about climate change. Listen, and ask follow up questions “Tell me more? Why do you feel that way?” But importantly DON’T RESPOND. Don’t engage with the parts that you disagree with. Just give them a chance to talk it out and be heard, you want to let them get the crux of their feelings on the subject off their chest. 

Step 5 – Acknowledge that you disagree

Let them know what you think. For example “Got it. So you’re probably not surprised to hear it but I think climate change is real and human-caused.” But then most importantly, say “BUT I really want to find a way to talk to you about it openly, and better understand what each other thinks, even if we don’t agree.” In other words, name the elephant in the room – that you disagree – and name it without being upset about it!

Step 6 – Make it personal.

Turn the conversation away from dueling facts, and towards life and experiences. For example, I might share a story about my friend Laurel, whose sister lost her home to a wildfire in Paradise, CA, and how hearing her story was the first time I felt a knot of fear in my stomach, that my own community could be in danger of the same thing. The key here is to share vulnerably, and then talk about how it made you FEEL. And then (most importantly) invite them to do the same – bring emotion explicitly into the conversation.


Some more resources that we recommend:


A few of the research papers telling us that climate conversations matter:


If you have a conversation about climate change, do us a favor and tell us about it! We’d love to hear how it went and what it felt like. Record a short voice memo on your phone and send it to us at howtosaveaplanet@spotify.com. We might use it in an upcoming episode.

Where to Listen

Transcript

Alex Blumberg: Welcome to How to Save a Planet. I’m Alex Blumberg.


Ayana Elizabeth Johnson: And I'm Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson. This is the podcast where we ask what do we need to do to address climate change, and how do we make those things happen.


Alex: So Ayana, because of the pandemic I am not going to go home to my parents' house for Thanksgiving for the first time in a long time.


Ayana: Oh, that sucks. But it's also the right call, to be clear. Like, I am all for preventing the continued acceleration of this pandemic.


Alex: Yeah. It’s gonna be a tricky holiday season, which is tough because I think for a lot of people, the holidays are already a tricky time, right? Like, getting together with, like, your extended family, things can sometimes get fraught.


Ayana: Mm-hmm. A little heated around the dinner table.


Alex: Very heated, yes. Especially when starting to talk about, like, big issues in the world, and ...


Ayana: Like climate change?


Alex: Like climate change. Exactly. You hear stories about this. I've heard stories, and we've actually heard from some of our listeners who talk about this, about, like, getting into conversations with family members about climate change that just go off the rails and turn into fights or turn into, like, huge misunderstandings, result in people not talking to each other and not talking to your parents or your cousins or your uncles.


Ayana: Has this happened to you?


Alex: It has not happened to me, but definitely I have family members for whom it could happen. You know what I mean? Like, if you were to go there, it feels like it could be explosive.


Ayana: I’ve got some cousins I'm kind of scared to raise this issue with, for sure.


Alex: Yeah, exactly. And I think that's a lot of people. A lot of people are afraid to talk about it, but the thing is these conversations, they really matter. You know, a study in 2019 looked at two groups of parents, each with middle school-aged children. And the one group of parents, their kids were learning about climate change in school and then coming home and talking to their parents about it. Like, they had—part of the curriculum was they had to interview their parents and ask them like, how do you think about it, and what have you noticed?


Alex: The other group, the kids weren’t studying climate change and their parents weren't hearing about it. And the parents in the group that was just talking to their kids about climate change as part of this study, their attitudes about climate change changed a lot. They became much more accepting of it as a thing that was happening in a cause for concern.


Ayana: They were sort of learning about it along with their kids. To me, the most interesting thing about that study was that they found that daughters, in particular, were really effective at convincing their parents. That young girls can often influence their family's perspectives on climate change, especially that of their fathers.


Alex: Mm-hmm.


Ayana: Girls can really influence their parents about climate change.


Alex: And, you know, they don’t know why it is that daughters are more effective than sons. It definitely seems to be a thing. But the key is, no matter what gender, talking about global warming with your friends and family leads to greater acceptance of the reality of climate change. Several studies have found this to be true. And one study found that a greater acceptance of climate science actually increases how much we want to talk to each other about it. So there’s this positive feedback loop.


Ayana: Yeah. But of course, like, not if the conversation goes off the rails, right?


Alex: Right.


Ayana: Like, not if you end up having a big fight and then don't talk to each other again. So we need to figure out how we can have these hard conversations. And so we thought today on the podcast we would bring you this special pre-Thanksgiving episode, where we give you some tips on what a productive climate conversation could look like.


Alex: We're gonna hear from a father and son who did not agree about climate science, talked about it, and lived to tell the tale. [laughs] And, in fact, the conversation was really productive. And we're gonna talk about how that went, and what we all can learn from their experience.


Ayana: And we'll have expert tips on how to have these conversations about climate and other difficult topics in a way that's maybe even delightful.


Alex: That is all coming up in just a moment.


***


Alex: So Ayana and I are very excited to talk to you guys both about this conversation, and I think your conversation is a conversation that lots and lots of family members are having.


Alex: So a few weeks ago, Ayana, you and I sat down and spoke to Bob Inglis and his son Rob Inglis. Bob is a former Republican congressman from a very conservative district in South Carolina.


Ayana: And you might remember him from an earlier episode we did. He’s a Republican who believes in the threat of climate change, and wants other Republicans to take action on climate. So he’s set up this organization called RepublicEN that’s advocating for action on climate change among political conservatives.


Alex: But Bob Inglis says he didn’t always hold this view on climate change. In fact, for most of his life, he barely thought about it. What changed his mind, he says, were conversations with his kids—his four daughters and, in particular, his son Rob. So Ayana and I sat down with Bob and Rob to talk about those conversations and why they worked. We all gathered on Zoom—as people do nowadays—and after some minor technical difficulties ...


Ayana: He does look frozen.


Alex: Oh, no.


Rob Inglis: My parents are pretty good at Zoom, overall. You know they’re ...


Ayana: There he is.


Alex: Hello.


Bob Inglis: Sorry. I’m back.


Alex: We launched into the interview, and asked them to tell us about their conversations and why they were effective.


Alex: And Bob, maybe you could start us off with, you know, you were first elected in 1993 to Congress, and would you just describe yourself politically back then, in the early nineties, mid nineties?


Bob Inglis: Yeah. In my first term in Congress, you know, my first tour I guess I should say, which was mostly focused on the deficit. You know, we were $300-billion in annual deficit, and I was quite concerned about that.


Alex: Right. And at that time, the word "environmentalist" to you, what did it mean to you? Would you have called yourself that?


Bob Inglis: Yeah, I definitely would not have called myself an environmentalist. Of course, as to climate change, all I knew is that Al Gore was for it. And if he was for it, I was against it.


Alex: [laughs]


Bob Inglis: Because I was very much red team versus blue team. That's what the other tribe talks about: government control of the economy and of our very breath, you know, and of everything about our lives. Maybe that was sort of the narrative.


Ayana: Did you think that it was happening? Like, did you think, "Okay. Well, I'm in for the science, but not for the policy action?"


Bob Inglis: No. Back then I was just—I think I described myself as consciously unaware. In other words, I did not want to be aware. And so a conscious disregard of the facts. That was Inglis 1.0.


Alex: Uh-huh. [laughs]


Ayana: [laughs] Wait. What version are you now? Like, how many versions do we get to hear about?


Alex: Yeah, exactly.


Bob Inglis: There was an Inglis 2.0. I thought it was a new and improved version, but apparently the Republican electorate in a primary in 2010 specifically didn't think it was a better version. [laughs]


Alex: Well, we'll see. We'll see if that maybe the electorate will come around.


Ayana: Rob, what year were you born?


Rob Inglis: I was born in 1985. When my dad ran for office, I guess I was—I think I was six or seven when he was first elected.


Alex: Uh-huh. And as you sort of entered your sort of adulthood and became politically aware, what were your main issues?


Rob Inglis: At least for environmental issues, it was something that started pretty early for me. There was, when I was about 10 or 12, there was a big, second-home golf development going in on the mountain behind where we lived in northern Greenville County, South Carolina. That was where I used to ride my bike and go hike around in the woods. And then it was sort of being bulldozed so that people could have golf homes. And it just felt unfair to me. It was this—you could sort of come in and buy the land from the people who'd had it in their families for generations, and just push down all the trees and put up McMansions.


Rob Inglis: I mean, there's not very many mountains in South Carolina. We gotta protect the ones that we have down there. And it felt like we were just losing the ability to have, like, places for people who don't buy McMansions to go hike or enjoy themselves. I got more interested in climate change a little bit later, like, sort of late high school beginning of college. But for me, it really started with this sort of local real estate developments and sort of local land use. You know, my dad jokes you can push play about this one particular development, and I will give a 30-minute rant, you know, anytime of the day or night, despite it being 20 years later.


Ayana: I’m guessing it went through, huh?


Rob Inglis: It went through. It went through, of course. As they tend to do.


Ayana: So at this point, were you—did you consider yourself a conservative or Republican?


Rob Inglis: I—I would say that I was fairly conservative for most of high school. Was sort of ...


Bob Inglis: And for the first two weeks of college.


Rob Inglis: [laughs] Yeah. You know, that's such a trite—it’s such a cliched story that what do you do? You go off to go to college and become more ...


Ayana: Where'd you go to college? Who did this to you?


Rob Inglis: I know. Yeah, yeah. I was at Yale for college.


Ayana: That’ll do it.


Rob Inglis: Yeah. Well one, I was reading all these, like, you know, Plato and Aristotle and etc, and just having the chance to, like, reflect a little bit about, like, what makes a just society. And two is just I was starting to be exposed to a lot of people who were—who thought differently from me. And for me, a lot of it was that I was part of this group, Yale Christian Fellowship.


Ayana: Mm-hmm.


Rob Inglis: You know, I thought that my Christian faith meant that I had to be politically conservative, because that's what everyone I knew back home, those two things went together. And I met a lot of people who were very deeply committed Christians, but were also politically left, and were thinking about poverty and injustice, and thinking also about taking care of the environment. And all those things really became things that I was really interested in.


Alex: Yeah.


Rob Inglis: And I felt like that was another part of why I thought that I could persuade my dad, is because I felt like we had this shared faith and sort of shared foundation of where our beliefs were coming from, about what a good world would look like, and the idea that we should take care of each other, and the sort of underlying shared set of values that was leading me to care a lot about climate change. And that's why I thought that I could talk to my dad about it.


Alex: This is a question for both of you, I guess. Do you remember then, the first conversation you had about climate change?


Bob Inglis: It’d be in the 2004 race. So I had been in Congress six years as just in conscious disregard of climate change. Then I was out six years doing commercial real estate law again in Greenville, South Carolina. Had the opportunity to run for the same seat again in '04. And that's when I remember Robert coming to me and saying, "Dad, I'll vote for you for this second round, second tour of duty in Congress, but you're gonna clean up your act on the environment."


Ayana: Rob, did you say it like that? Do you remember this moment?


Rob Inglis: Yeah, I remember. So it was—yeah, it was 2003 and I was turning 18. And ...


Ayana: Ah, this was gonna be your first vote.


Rob Inglis: It was my first vote ever. Yeah.


Ayana: You were, like, dangling it. Like, Dad I don’t know if you’re gonna get this.


Rob Inglis: Exactly, I know. I had to play—I had to play hard to get. [laughs] I do remember saying something like, "Yeah, Dad. You've got my vote, but I want you to do better on the environment. Like, I want you to do a better job on this."


Bob Inglis: And, you know, it's interesting that I never felt any threat about that, Robert, you know? It's like, I knew that, you know, when he said to me, you know, "Dad I'll vote for you, but you’re gonna clean up your act on the environment." It wasn't in his economic interest to vote against me. You know what I mean? He knew we were mortgaging the farmette that we live on to run for Congress. I knew what he was saying was, "Dad, I love you. And you can be better than you were before. So how about make this Inglis 2.0, the new and improved version, and be relevant to my future and your four daughters' futures?"


Rob Inglis: I do think that, you know, we had many more than one conversation about this in the intervening time, you know? Like, I did come home and tell him, like, "I want you to do a better job on the environment." But then we kept talking about it over the years that followed. And I think that there was a sense of, like, those conversations being iterative and that it was—you know, I don't think I persuaded him all the way the first time I brought it up, you know?


Alex: Was it sort of like a back and forth that you guys were having?


Rob Inglis: Yeah. One of the things that we talked about a lot in economics class was the idea that you could have these negative externalities, that you could have costs of pollution that weren't borne by the person doing the pollution, but rather by other people in society or, you know, people in future generations. And that was something I came to my dad with and was able to say, look, within the discipline of economics, which you pay a lot of attention to and place a lot of value, that this is clearly a place where there's a market failure, and that the market pricing mechanisms break down and have to be corrected by some sort of governmental or collective action to assign these costs to the polluter.


Rob Inglis: And so I think that that was something that I was able to come to him with that I do think that helped. I think that it was being able to say, look, this is a values question, but this is also a question of just simple economics, and this is just simply—it just simply doesn't work to have the ability to pollute at will without having to bear any of the cost of it.


Bob Inglis: Yeah, you know, I had taken various courses in economics in college, so it was bringing that back. It was like, oh yeah.


Ayana: Rob, did you draw a graph? Did you draw a negative externalities graph for your father?


Rob Inglis: I think I did. I think I drew some negative externalities and sort of the way that you would decrease total, like, consumer surplus or something. I mean, I was getting real deep.


Ayana: Oh my God, I'm so into this. [laughs]


Alex: [laughs] Well, what strikes me is that you were putting the argument in terms and values that you and your father both shared: both the value of your Christian faith and the value of your belief and understanding of the power of economics.


Rob Inglis: Yeah, I think that's right. I think that my goal was to—again, I never thought that my dad was willfully doing the wrong thing. I thought that he was just not aware of some of the reasons that he ought to be doing what I felt to be was the right thing. And so I felt that I could talk to him about both the connection to our shared faith and the connection to what I felt was a reasonable understanding of the economic drivers.


Alex: It's interesting though, because I think a lot of times in these kinds of conversations, they can go one of two ways. They can go—like, you can react with defensiveness then just be like, "Well, you don't understand. And I'm gonna—you went to that fancy school and now it's corrupted you." And there's a whole different way that can go. I wonder, what was it about the way he said it at that moment, or your relationship that prompted you to be—like, to take this as sort of like, "Oh, I'm gonna take this at face value and start looking into it." Why was that, do you think?


Bob Inglis: Yeah. Well, you know, and I surely have not fought the battle against him and won. So there are times when I do react that way you just described. But I think in this case, it was just that I knew that Robert loved me, and I knew he was gonna vote for me. I knew he was for me, and wanted us to win. But I also knew that he was really sincerely concerned about climate change and about, you know, preserving the environment. And I think that it was a deeper challenge too, for faith because he was like, "Well, yeah. That is—we are called on to be stewards of this creation, aren't we?" And so he was gently reminding me of my own calling, really. And so if you can accept that as loving correction rather than a threat to your identity, then things can go well. And thankfully, I knew it was loving correction.


Alex: Yeah.


Ayana: That’s such a great term, I’m just going to lovingly correct all sorts of things from here on out. Does it not work that way? [laughs]


Rob Inglis: [laughs]Yeah, exactly.


Alex: So once you were lovingly corrected, was there ...


Ayana: Were there other steps?


Alex: Yeah.


Bob Inglis: Yeah. Well, of course, the first step was Robert and his intervention in ‘04. Then I went to Antarctica with the science committee in ‘06, and saw the evidence in the ice core drillings. And then another science committee trip in ‘08, again to Antarctica, but with the stopover at the Great Barrier Reef. And being inspired by the faith of an Aussie climate scientist who's now become a very dear friend, who I could tell as he was showing me stuff as we're snorkeling that we shared a worldview. No words having been spoken about faith, because I could see he was worshiping God in what he was showing me.


Ayana: Hmm. I'm a marine biologist, so I can relate to that feeling when you see a coral reef, for sure.


Bob Inglis: Really? Yeah. Yeah. So, you know, on this supposedly godless science committee trip, apparently this guy's of real deep faith, and he really was clearly worshiping God in what he was showing me. And so later we had a chance to talk, and he told me about conservation changes he was making in his life to love God and love people.


Alex: Huh.


Bob Inglis: And so I got right inspired. I wanted to be like him, loving God and loving people. And that's when I came home and introduced the Raise Wages, Cut Carbon Act of 2009.


Alex: Got it. I wonder, you know, you talk about, like, having the conversations with Rob, and then going on these trips with the science committee to Antarctica and to the Great Barrier Reef. If you hadn't been having those conversations with Rob, do you think your experience on those trips would have been the same?


Bob Inglis: No, I think it would have been—it was—Robert was the preparation for that. It was sort of, yeah I've heard about this from Robert. Let me listen carefully here, because maybe I can get additional information that helps me defend this or helps me make this case, you know? And, you know, it's not just information, though. I think it's really important not to think that what we have here is a problem of lack of information in climate action. It's really—it's a lack of affirmation, a lack of affinity and identity, it’s—that’s what it is.


Alex: Right. Without these conversations with Rob, it sounds like what you're saying is, like, this wouldn't have been an important issue to anybody that I care about.


Bob Inglis: Right.


Alex: It would have been an important issue to Al Gore, but I don't care about him. He's not my son.


Bob Inglis: Right.


Alex: But because I know it's important to people that I care about, it becomes important to me.


Bob Inglis: Yeah, it becomes—it goes way up in salience, doesn't it at that point? And so, you know, we all play to some audience.


Alex: Mm-hmm.


Bob Inglis: And thankfully, the audience that I want to play to, you know, is Robert and his four sisters, his mother. I mean, they're really important to me. So yeah, if you have acceptance from that audience, then you can go out and face the world.


Ayana: After the break, we’ll hear Bob and Rob's advice on how you can have successful conversations like this with your own family members.


Alex: And we'll go even further. We’ll give you step-by-step instructions on how to have one of these discussions from someone who’s spent years training people on how to have a conversation where both sides actually hear each other. That’s after the break.


***


Ayana: Welcome back to How to Save a Planet, and to our conversation with Bob and Rob Inglis.


Alex: What advice would you give people who are trying to have that conversation so that it doesn't go off the rails? So that it's a productive conversation like the two of you had?


Rob Inglis: Going into a conversation, like, it's a leap of faith and sort of a vulnerable act. But to just trust that your family member has decency and good intentions, and to go to them with that presumption and with that faith that they will—that they can listen to you. Like, I think that if you don't believe that someone can listen, you're never gonna give them the chance to listen.


Alex: Yeah.


Bob Inglis: Yeah. And I guess, I mean, Robert can testify I’m no great saint. You know, that the reality is I want to talk more than I want to listen. But where I'd start with giving advice is listen first.


Rob Inglis: I do feel like listening to your family members, like, trying to elicit, like, what are their concerns? What are the reasons that they believe what they believe? And I feel like people are willing to ...


Ayana: Ask some questions.


Rob Inglis: Yeah, exactly. People are willing to listen to you after they feel like you've listened to them. And that that is so important, particularly in a family setting where you've got—you both hopefully have a sort of a reservoir of love and good will, but you probably also have a reservoir of times you argued about, you know, who was going to do the dishes. And just like any other family conversation, the way to get on the good side of that history is to make the other person feel heard and listened to.


Ayana: Not just come and present your freshman year of college-regurgitated lectures?


Rob Inglis: Yeah, exactly. I mean, I think about—I almost think of ...


Ayana: Just a few select talking points, but not the whole lecture?


Rob Inglis: Yeah, exactly. Only the choicest of talking points, you know?


Bob Inglis: And I think another is when Uncle Charlie is coming to Thanksgiving, if you get to have Thanksgiving with Charlie this year, you know? And he's the climate disputer?


Alex: Our hypothetical uncle Charlie here? Yeah.


Bob Inglis: Just realize that Charlie is afraid of something. He's got some fear going on there. He fears judgment, maybe. He fears that he's the laggard. He fears that his life is gonna change. That he's been wrong somehow.


Alex: Mm-hmm.


Bob Inglis: And so you have to establish that there's a reservoir of grace for him to come around. And that's what I surely had with Robert and his sisters and his mother is I knew that I could change because I knew there was a concept of grace there and forgiveness.


Ayana: That’s really important.


Bob Inglis: But Charlie may be feeling like there is no redemption for him. And guilt without redemption brings paralysis. It's only when you have a sense that you can be forgiven or you can change and it's okay to change, that then you can reach for the redemption. But otherwise, you double down. And you get even more fearful because they're coming for you and they don't like you, and they treat you like you're the laggard and the dumb kid in the class. The last one to get it. So that's where the paralysis comes. And so it's all about—really, it's all about love and grace. That's what makes it possible for Charlie to change.


Alex: Yeah.


Ayana: Not the, "I told you so, dummy. Why don’t you get it?" Yeah. No one likes that.


Bob Inglis: And it's the plea that I have with people, especially on the left. And I'm one of those people who was wrong for six years in Congress, and rather complicit in that, you know, and responsible. And so the fact that I've been given grace by people who allow me into this conversation now, I just hope that that will be replicated many times over. Is as people come around, let them in on the conversation. Don't make them sit at the dumb kid table, you know? Or with their—you know, with a dunce cap on in the corner. Welcome them to the conversation. And, you know, I'd get in trouble with my mom and she'd say, "Well Bob, if you hadn't done such and so, we wouldn't be here right now." And I'd say, "Yeah, I know that, Mom. But what do we do now?" You know?


Alex: [laughs]


Bob Inglis: And so that's where we need to be focused, because what do we do now? We know we've wasted time. We have wasted time on climate, and we really need to get moving. So no need having a meeting to assess blame. Just come together and find a path forward and quickly.


Ayana: So there's a question that we ask everyone we interview. I'd love to start with you, Rob. When you think about climate change, how screwed are we?


Rob Inglis: Oh my gosh. I’m an optimist, so I think that—I think we can do something about it. I think that we talk about 2050 or 2100 are often the two dates that are chosen when you're thinking about the medium future and the far future. But my wife and I are thinking about starting a family sometime soon. And with any luck, our kids will be alive at 2100.


Ayana: Yeah.


Rob Inglis: And that's not, like, the unbelievably far-away future. Like, that's real. So this really matters. And I think that, obviously, things that we do in the next few years to decade will really make all the difference. So I think I'm an optimist that we can make a difference. I mean, obviously I think there's a lot of warming that's gonna happen even under the best case scenario, but I think we can really mitigate the damage. But I think we've got to get our act together really soon.


Ayana: Bob, what do you think? How screwed are we?


Bob Inglis: Well, I would say this. You know, Robert, you're a doctor. If an 80-year-old smoker presents, I think you'd still tell them to stop, right? In other words, you've done some damage. You're 80 years old and you’ve been smoking. But stop. If you stop, you can avoid some of the—some of the worst that may come your way. And that's really where we are on climate. We've been smoking for the whole of the industrial revolution, and we just need to stop smoking. Stop now. Stop smoking.


Ayana: I do have one last question, which is Rob, are you willing to talk to other people's dads?


Alex: [laughs]


Ayana: You’re clearly good at this.


Alex: Are you available for rent for Thanksgivings around the country?


Rob Inglis: I would. I would ...


Ayana: Could you Zoom into various Thanksgivings and just, like ...?


Rob Inglis: That would be really fun. I think that you don't even have to, like, stuff yourself with everyone's pumpkin pie. Although, I would miss—you know, I do like pumpkin pies.


Ayana: You can just pretend your internet is bad if the conversation goes ...


Rob Inglis: Yeah, I like that idea. Pretending the internet died if things are really going for the worse


Ayana: I’m imagining you just, like, freezing. Like, fake freezing in a weird position.


Rob Inglis: [laughs] Exactly.


Ayana: This has truly been a treat. Thank you both for sharing your story, and giving us some time.


Alex: I think it’ll be really meaningful for people to hear.


Ayana: Absolutely.


Rob Inglis: Awesome. Well, thank you so much. This has been a pleasure.


Bob Inglis: Yeah.


Alex: That was Bob and Rob Inglis. It's quite a conversation.


Ayana: It was quite a conversation. Hopefully it left some folks inspired to have similar discussions with their own family members about climate change.


Alex: And if folks were so inspired, we have some tips for how to have this conversation effectively. And these tips that we’re gonna tell you about, they come to us from a guy named Steve Deline.


Ayana: Steve is an expert at having hard conversations like this. He worked at the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Leadership Lab, and they pioneered a method for having conversations with people who don't agree with you. It's called deep canvassing, where you go door to door to have non-judgmental interpersonal conversations. Doesn't that sound lovely?


Alex: It does!


Ayana: The method was designed for building acceptance around marriage equality and transgender rights. And research shows it was really effective. So now this same methodology is being used to talk about a whole bunch of different issues.


Alex: And Steve now runs an organization called The New Conversation Initiative, which helps people build these deep-canvassing programs. And we asked him how folks should approach this conversation with family members. And he said the basic principles of deep canvassing work for interpersonal conversations too, just with some small tweaks. So he sent us an email with six bullet-pointed steps. And we are going to tell you what those steps are right now.


Ayana: Step one is to set realistic expectations. You're not gonna change someone's entire worldview in one conversation, but you can open the door to a longer-term discussion.


Alex: Step two: Find a buddy, someone who already agrees with you, who you trust and feel comfortable with, who can pep you up before this difficult conversation, and then who you can debrief with after you have it.


Ayana: Step three is to find a quiet moment for this conversation. Not put someone on the spot in front of your entire family, but do be direct and say, "Hey, I'd love to find a time to talk with you about this." So they have a chance to opt in, and they know what they're getting into.


Alex: Step four: When it actually comes time to have this conversation, start by listening.


Ayana: Yeah.


Alex: Don't start talking. Listen, and then ask follow-up questions. Tell me more. Why do you feel the way you feel? And whatever they say, don't respond right then. Don't engage with the parts that make you crazy, just let them talk and try to really genuinely understand where they're coming from.


Ayana: And that's really important because when you get to step five: Acknowledging that you disagree and sharing what you think and how you've come to that perspective, you can engage with them more effectively, because you actually know where they're coming from and what you might be able to share that relates to that.


Alex: And by listening to them, you've made it okay for them to listen to you. And then step six: Make it personal. Turn the conversation away from talking points and dueling facts and talk about feelings. How does the threat of climate change make you feel? Talk to them about what is particularly threatening. What are they afraid of if some of these policies become enacted?


Ayana: And then step seven: Hold hands and skip off into the sunset, obviously.


Alex: [laughs] Maybe not right away.


Ayana: No, I think step seven is the acknowledgment that you're gonna probably have to have a follow-up conversation about this, right?


Alex: Yeah.


Ayana: If there's one thing we learned from Rob and Bob, is that these could be a bunch of five-minute conversations over the course of months or years.


Alex: Okay! So those are the steps.


Ayana: Yeah. We know that’s a lot to take in, so we’ve put those steps in our show notes and in our newsletter.


Alex: And if you do end up having difficult climate conversations with your friends or family, let us know how it goes.


Ayana: Yeah, maybe they’re less difficult than you anticipated now that you’ve got the inside scoop on the social science-recommended steps.


Alex: Yeah. And we can all be each other’s buddy. Remember step two: Find a buddy? We’re all in this together. We want to hear how it went.


Ayana: You’re such a goober!


Alex: No, that was sincere! [laughs] I do. I feel like we’re all buddies.


Ayana: Yeah. And if any of those conversations lead to interesting stories, please send us an email. how2saveaplanet@spotify.com. Maybe attach a voice memo for us.


Alex: And also don’t forget to subscribe to the newsletter. You can go to how2saveaplanet.show to sign up. We’re gonna put all the steps in there as well. And also, we’ll put in a link to Bob Inglis's group republicEN.org. Bob says if you've got a conservative family member who you're talking to about climate change, send 'em Bob's way. Send 'em to RepublicEN.org, that’s the word Republic and then the letters E-N, dot org, where Bob's group can talk to them in the language of conservatism. That link is in the newsletter and also—you guessed it—in the show notes right there on your phone.


Ayana: How to Save a Planet is a Spotify original podcast and a Gimlet production. You can follow us @how2saveaplanet—with the number 2—on Twitter and Instagram, and email us at how2saveaplanet@spotify.com.


Alex: How to Save a Planet is hosted by me, Alex Blumberg.


Ayana: And me, Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson. Our reporters and producers are Rachel Waldholz, Kendra Pierre-Louis, Anna Ladd and Felix Poon. Our senior producer is Lauren Silverman. Our editor is Caitlin Kenney.


Alex: Sound design, mixing and original music by Emma Munger. Additional music by Billy Libby. Our fact checker this episode is Claudia Geib.


Ayana: And thanks to all of you who sent us messages about your climate conversations. We’ll see you next week. I just love saying "We'll see you next week."


Alex: [laughs]