When we learn about different issues that affect animals, we often become so affected by our new knowledge that we want to share it with others. In the best cases, we share our stories with others and they become moved to action as well. However, sometimes this interaction does not go as smoothly as we would have hoped, and we end up alienating people in our lives.
To understand what it means to be alienated, the definition of “alienating” is as follows: “To make unfriendly, hostile, or indifferent especially where attachment formerly existed” and “to cause to be withdrawn or diverted.” No one wants to push someone away when they are trying to convey the importance of a cause or issue. The question is, what is the best way to approach people about animal-related issues that are important to us?
We’ll take a look at some basic tools of communicating effectively, and how we can specifically relate them to animal issues. Whether it be animals in captivity, eating animals, animal testing, or any topic under the sun, being an effective animal advocate starts with good communication skills.
1. Be courteous
Whether the person you are talking to is a friend, new acquaintance, or perhaps someone you’ve just met, it’s important to speak with civility and courtesy. This is also the first step in not alienating people, because it puts everyone at ease. Carrying this tone throughout the conversation also keeps the focus on the topic at hand, instead of making anyone feel attacked or go on the defensive.
2. Be genuine
Express genuine interest in the other person, tell a genuine and compelling story, and you will find the conversation to be a lot smoother. If what you are talking about is important and real to you, you will have more confidence in what you are saying. Part of this comes from learning about different issues and knowing that sometimes you might not have the right “defense” or quick comeback for someone, but that’s okay. Being genuine in your discussions with other people involves being able to look for answers together or talk about how this is still a journey for you, but you are learning more all the time.
3. Listen to the other person
In truly listening to another person, you can begin to understand what is important to them, and get a sense of how they view the issue at hand. For instance, if you’re discussing marine theme parks and the other person just doesn’t believe that a corporation like SeaWorld would keep animals in such conditions, you can lead them to the facts. Or if they seem more moved by the emotional aspect of confining animals, take the discussion down that path. No one agrees with animal cruelty, but everyone has a different way of understanding the issues, and that’s okay. In actively listening during a conversation, you will discover the best way to approach the topic with each person.
4. Know when to let go
Sometimes, it’s best to let the issue rest if the discussion becomes too intense. Let the other person know that you are doing your best to talk about these issues in a way that is respectful. Especially if the other person is a close friend, you can even ask if there was a particular phrase or moment that upset them in your discussion. In this way, you can learn from each interaction how to become a better activist.
5. Always remain approachable
After an initial conversation, give the issue some time to rest and allow it to imbed itself into the consciousness of the other person. It’s important not to alienate people so that they can come back to you in the future for discussion. It is this sort of openness that should be conveyed when talking about different issues. When someone feels comfortable talking with you because you are courteous, genuine, and listen well, they may even approach you for questions about different animal-related issues. This is the best outcome to strive for, and a wonderful step in becoming an amazing advocate for animals.
Got these pointers down pat? Then be sure to check out our guide to “8 Easy Ways to Make an Impact for Animals and the Environment” to continue on your advocacy journey!
Image source: Wikipedia Commons