Talking to People

Social science research has shown again and again that the people are most apt to change their minds about an issue is when a friend, family member, or neighbor speaks with them directly. Though you may only be able to speak with a small number of people at any one time, you can personalize your message (and you don’t have to worry about an editor deciding not to print it!). Here a few tips to make your message more memorable and effective.

  • Don’t force the conversation. If the topic of higher education comes up, take the opportunity to talk about it. But if the other person has no interest in the subject, bringing it up time and again will only annoy them.
  • Don’t be argumentative. If you are speaking with someone who feels strongly that your opinion is wrong, you may not be able to change their mind. Allowing the conversation to become contentious will only strengthen their feelings. On the other hand, if they see that they are able to have a pleasant discussion with you despite a difference of opinion, they may be inclined to think more favorably of your side in the debate later on.
  • Explain to people how issues in higher ed affect them. This will vary based on the person–maybe they were the first in their family to go to college, or maybe they have a child in college now. Maybe they are in business and care about a well-educated local workforce.
  • Simply explain why the issue is so important to you. This kind of message, because it is so genuine, can also be very effective. Many people will be interested even if the issue doesn’t affect them directly, if you explain how it affects their friend (i.e., you).