Alright, so you’ve read our Top 5 Strategies for Casual Conservation Conversations. Now what? How can you actually start a conversation about ocean conservation with someone? Here are a few pointers to help you take that first step!
Start with open-ended questions! Questions are a great way to get people engaged in a conversation. As I’ve said before, most people like to talk more than they like to listen! Open-ended questions in particular are an effective tool because they solicit more than a yes/no answer, which results in a richer conversation.
- Example Scenario: Out to lunch with a friend at a seafood restaurant.
- Yes/No Question: Did you know that many fisheries have been collapsing recently?
- Open-Ended Question: What is your favorite type of fish to eat? What have you heard about its fishery?
- The yes/no question can result in a conversation, but it may seem out of the blue and catch your audience off guard. It also results in a yes/no question that doesn’t add depth or progress the conversation much.
Discover Previous Knowledge. Open-ended questions are great because they help establish previous knowledge. We do not want to assume that people are blank slates, with no previous knowledge or preconceived notions on a given topic. Doing so may lead to boring them (if they know a lot about the topic), offending them (if they think you undermining their intelligence), or confusing them (if they come into the conversation with misconceptions on the topic). This is crucial to remember!
Let the conversation progress naturally. We all have topics that we are extremely passionate about, and we assume that everyone else is just as passionate as we are about them. However, we also all know this is not true at all! Let your audience steer the conversation towards a conservation topic they are passionate about, and you will be far more successful in have an effective conversation with them.
A word of caution: conversations can easily get off track, so continual conscious steering of the conversation towards the general theme you strive to talk about (like oceans) is necessary!
Read your audience. This is similar to letting the conversation progress naturally, but takes it one step further to really drive home the importance of noticing subtleties. Body language, tone of voice, level of engagement, responses to questions, among other indicators can all be extremely useful when determining what direction to steer the conversation. Refrain from getting wrapped up in your own thoughts and actions, and remind yourself throughout the conversation to pay attention to the audience. It will make a big difference in the quality of the conversation.
Know when to stop. We want to inspire people to care about ocean conservation, and we want them to bring up these topics with us in the future. The last thing we want to do is push them away. Therefore, it is crucial that you know when to stop. Read their body language, listen to their responses, and casually end the conversation if you notice it is not leading in a positive direction. There will be plenty of opportunities to have great conversations, and today just may not be one of them!
Any other suggestions? Comment below!
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