How to get your opinion across (without raising your voice).
Image by Futura Free Design.
As a budding eco-enthusiast or activist, you’ve probably been in a situation where you’ve had to explain your actions or beliefs to someone who may not share the same view as you, and while it’s easy to argue or even dismiss the other person as ignorant, it’s actually incredibly important to engage in this type of discourse. Why?
Well for one, it’s important that we don’t fall into an echo chamber filled with similar voices and opinions to our own. What we mean by that is, if you’re constantly hearing similar opinions to yours from the people who look, sound and are the same age as you, then only your view is reinforced and alternative ideas are not considered (aka you only have one side to the story).
The benefits of engaging in often difficult conversations with those who disagree with you include, evolving your perspective, learning something new, solidifying your argument (queue flash back to debating practice in high school), and building deeper relationships and respect between you and the person you’re engaging with. It’s also delightfully satisfying (just saying) to school someone on an important topic like the benefits of Cost Per Wear or why giving people jobs isn’t an excuse to buy fast fashion.
The point is, we all react differently when conversations like this pop up, but there are ways you can navigate them so as to avoid losing friends, making family Christmases awkward (we’re looking at you Aunty Karen), or stamping your feet like a toddler and making your argument seem completely redundant (who’s ignorant now?). Here are our tips so you can not only arm yourself with a strong case but to also avoid a heated argument with both Aunty Karen at Christmas and the old man at the supermarket who just put his bananas in not one but three plastic bags… Sigh.
Think of it as a blind date
You wouldn’t go into a Tinder date without having some talking points up your sleeve (and maybe a cheeky glass of liquid courage, too). So why not do the same for the issues you care about (the talking points that is)? You don’t have to have the knowledge of Clare Press, but an understanding the basics will go far when chatting to anybody about ethical living. Always have a couple of facts in the back of your mind, and pair this with your own reasons for living the way you do.
If your passion is ethical fashion and the rights of garment workers, let us load you up with some quick fire facts that are easy to remember: 9% of Australian fashion brands pay their workers a living wage and 4% of what Australians spend on clothing goes to the wages of workers in garment factories across the globe. Knowledge is power, so try and know as much as you can, especially on the topics you feel most passionate about.
Also, if the person you’re chatting to asks where you got your information, tell them with a smile! Then ask them where they got theirs. We’ve all been guilty of recycling information we heard on a podcast or Netflix series, but a lot of the time it’s just a long game of he said, she said, and incorrect facts can potentially be detrimental to the cause. If you’re ever unsure, have a scroll through our Journal or simply send them there to do some reading themselves. We’d be glad to have them here.
Judging is, like, so last decade
Judgement comes easily when emotions begin to bubble to the surface. You’ll more than likely experience judgement when you’re speaking with someone whose views belong back in the Jurassic period, so do your best to stay level headed and open to new ideas. Try not to judge the person with conflicting views, even if they’re judging you, and even if their views seem outdated and just plain wrong. As with all battles, both sides think their view is the right one, so try to understand where they’re coming from even if you know in your heart of hearts that you’ll never agree. Listen to their point of view, try and see where they are coming from (yep, even if they’re wrapping their bananas in three plastic bags), and then give your opinion.
The Harvard Business Review tells us that people only really remember 25% of the things they actually listen to, so if your conversation is going south super quickly, make your argument short and punchy, avoid negativity (because that’s likely the only part they will remember) and take the moral high ground.
Ask yourself if the conversation is worth having
If it feels like you’re about to engage in a battle about climate change with Andrew Bolt, maybe it’s just not worth having. Sure, we said it’s important to have conversations with people who disagree with you, but if you already know their views are completely opposite to yours or they’re as stubborn as a beetroot stain, the conversation is likely going to lead to an argument, hurt feelings or will make things awkward for those around you. In this case, we suggest sticking to topics like puppies or the weather—two things most people can agree on.
Plus, if you want to convince someone why they’re wrong, it’s not really a great motive for starting a conversation—that sounds like more of a lecture or fight than a constructive debate.
Ask questions, then ask some more
If you do decide to go into a prickly conversation, your best method is to question, question, question. Ask them why they think their opinion is correct, then continue asking why (like your three year old nephew) until they can’t answer it anymore. You can even frame your talking points as questions: “What do you think about the fact that 4% of what Australians spend on clothing goes to the wages of workers in garment factories across the globe?” It’s a great way to come across as open to their opinions and it may even get them to question something they never thought about before.
Wrap it up
If they either don’t want to listen to your opinion or they belittle you for having an opinion that differs from theirs, then that says more about them than it does about you (Mum will be happy to know that this piece of advice has sunk in). You don’t need the gift of hindsight to see that a conversation is going nowhere, so if you know this is the likely outcome, wrap it up and don’t think about it again. Live your own beliefs and truths, lead by example, and (hopefully) eventually others will follow.
Above all, be confident. You have every right to speak your mind you wonderful, woke human being. Oh, and if this list triggered some conversations and experiences you’ve had about ethics and sustainability, we’d love to hear about them.