The Art of Persuasion: Framing Climate Solutions in Terms of Personal Values
The political divide on climate change is closing – but it still exists. How can climate communicators get beyond partisanship and focus on solutions? One very effective technique is to put yourself in the shoes of your audience, and frame the issue in terms of the values they hold most dear.
As this New York Times article points out, liberals tend to respond better to messages about fairness and equality, while values of patriotism and group loyalty resonate more strongly among conservatives. So, when addressing a liberal audience, we might explain how climate change disproportionately affects the disadvantaged, and show how climate solutions can help remedy that inequality. When addressing conservatives, we might emphasize that climate change is a national security issue, and that climate solutions help strengthen us as a nation.
Conservatives also respond well to messages about freedom and self-reliance, so talking about energy independence as one of the co-benefits of wind and solar often gets a positive response.
This approach not only helps show climate solutions in a positive light, but it also shows respect for your audience. Taking the time to acknowledge their point of view (even if it differs from your own) can go a long way in shaping a constructive dialogue.
By Robb Willer and Matthew Feinberg, contributors to The New York Times
It’s a simple strategy. It’s just not easy to implement.
In business, everyone knows that if you want to persuade people to make a deal with you, you have to focus on what they value, not what you do. If you’re trying to sell your car, you emphasize the features of the sale that appeal to the buyer (the reliability and reasonable price of the vehicle), not the ones that appeal to you (the influx of cash).
This rule of salesmanship, as we demonstrated in a series of experiments detailed in a recent article in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, also applies in political debate — i.e., you should frame your position in terms of the moral values of the person you’re trying to convince. But when it comes to politics, this turns out to be hard to do. We found that people struggled to set aside their reasons for taking a political position and failed to consider how someone with different values might come to support that same position.
In one study, we presented liberals and conservatives with one of two messages in support of same-sex marriage. One message emphasized the need for equal rights for same-sex couples. This is the sort of fairness-based message that liberals typically advance for same-sex marriage. It is framed in terms of a value — equality — that research has shown resonates more strongly among liberals than conservatives. The other message was designed to appeal to values of patriotism and group loyalty, which have been shown to resonate more with conservatives. (It argued that “same-sex couples are proud and patriotic Americans” who “contribute to the American economy and society.”)
Image credit: Felipe Cabrera / Flickr