I know you already encountered this phenomenon: smart and intelligent people who believe that the climate crisis is a fraud. Who believe the climate crisis is not man-made, that species always went extinct and this is part of evolution. They say it’s just natural to experience the heavy floods, wildfires and storms once in a while, it was always like that. And actually, everything is just fine.
And, you look at them with this funny look, with a sense of arrogance ‘cause, come on!!! You can’t believe that this person, this friend of yours, this person you thought to be smart and funny, actually thinks those things.
You believe that if they just knew or read the right news, their eyes would open up, so you present them some basic information to prove your point. You are positive that they will come to their senses if they just knew the facts! But, whatever you do, whatever evidence you share with them, the alerting science models, the graphs and the statistics – nothing changes their minds.
Some have counter-arguments to share with you and you find yourself in a daunting argument. Some just don’t want to talk about it. They say it’s not their job to save the world, they say they are too busy with their own life struggles that they have no room for big problems. Some say that they don’t understand enough to have an opinion and some get anxious and defensive.
You find yourself helpless, frustrated, angry, scared and confused – all at once. If they don’t believe in science, what does that mean? Are they really so dumb and closed-minded? Is there any way to convince them they got it all wrong?
A few days or weeks go by, and the call to connect with them awakens in you.
You know you have to try, do your best, be bold, for humanity’s sake.
This time you are more cautious, your eyes don’t shine as much. You have already been rejected before by all those people who didn’t want to listen to you. It hurts to be rejected, ignored, put down and pushed away. You do not want to feel that way again. No – you refuse to feel that way again.
You come across a really good article that sums the whole problem up, maybe this time they will listen? Even though you still feel tightness in your chest when you think about them, you send the article. You ask them to read it. You hope that they will read it and maybe change their minds. You wish they would stop going on cruise ship holidays, you wish they would change their carnivore diet or stop using single-use plastics. Your mission is so important. You hit send.
You ask them about it the next time you meet. They didn’t even open the document! They didn’t even take the time to read!
What is it? Don’t they get it? What is going on?
It’s their world too, and it’s falling apart!
Why don’t they listen to the obvious facts? To science?
So, what is really going on? Why don’t they listen?
Your facts are not being considered at all because they put a lot of emotional pressure on the other person who feels overwhelmed and unsafe to let this information touch them. They sense the danger in reading something that might make them feel uncomfortable, that might change their whole lives and perspective. They might feel guilty, sad, or out of balance. They might realize that they spent their entire lives or career going in the wrong direction. They might have to consider that they and their family are part of the problem. It’s unravelling.
Whatever the reason may be, people won’t listen to your information if they feel unsafe and to do so with you. They will protect themselves, their emotional well being and their identity with all their might.
I know you feel you know the truth, and it’s so obvious for you and they just got it all wrong. I know you really want them to stop doing damage and start showing some care for the planet. You want that because you care. You care for the planet and you care for them. You wish they would change because you will feel closer to them, connected, united by the common cause. If they change it will show they also care. It will show they understand you were right, it will make your life better. It will also give you a sense of success.
Deep inside, you are looking for connection and intimacy.
If you can put aside what you want them to do and how they have to change their ways and talk with them from your heart that cares for them and for your relationship. You will find out they are more attentive and can listen. They will have less need to protect themselves, they will share with you more and you will feel less alienated. Then, quite naturally, they will want to hear from you. The conversation will change from who’s right, to let’s listen to each other and share our views and learn on the other’s perspective.
When you share your truth in a safe space and you are being heard, you feel connected, seen and empowered. They don’t have to agree with you or change their behaviour right away. You want them to listen to you because you need to express yourself and feel safe to be yourself with them. The change will naturally occur without arguments and persuasions.
Remember, no one can argue with what you feel. Share your deepest truth, your feelings, your concerns. Don’t focus all your effort on conveying the facts.