Right now, it's abundantly clear: The world could use a little more peace, love, and understanding. There is suffering to be eased; there are wrongs to be righted. If you read the daily headlines and wish someone could just step in and make things better, there's good news: Someone can—and you already know just the person for the job—you. Inside of you, there’s a mighty activist, even if you’ve never owned a bullhorn or chained yourself to an oil rig.
To be an activist, all you have to do is exercise your power to, yes, act. You can be a force for good whether you’re marching on the front lines, raising your voice in support of the latest hashtag movement, or rallying others to join you in the push for new legislation on gun control.
But you may be wondering where to start. Here's the good news, you can tap into your inner activism, in this moment, by using your phone. An integral part of being an activist is calling up your local representative and telling them your concerns, which can be intimidating—but also effective. All calls, including voice messages, are logged and relayed to the politician by their staff. The more people on the phone lines, the more your representative will know how much of a priority an issue is for their constituents. And while it's true that the number of calls matter, there are a few tips and tricks you'll need to make your time spent calling as efficient as possible.
Here, Emily Ellsworth, a former congressional staffer and author of the eBook Call the Halls, has four pieces of advice for phoning a politician.
If you are between the far left and the far right, your voice needs to be heard.
Few folks ever get in touch, so the ones who do have a disproportionate influence. We got a lot of calls from people on the far right and far left with fringe ideas, but I rarely heard from folks in the middle. Some of these people think they aren’t educated enough about an issue to talk about it. The truth is, that doesn’t matter. The person on the other end of the line is there to listen, not drill down on your credentials.
There's no need to be discouraged if you don't actually speak to your congressperson.
When my bosses were in town, they had no time to answer the phone. Staffers do, and they also do the bulk of policy work—meaning, if they receive hundreds of calls about an issue, they take notice. That’s why it’s important to connect with staffers: They have the representative’s ear every day. And if you want to have an impact when you call, be kind. You should be firm— but yelling and swearing just shuts us down.
If you're not allowed to vote in their district, calling might be a waste of time.
If Elizabeth Warren or Mitch McConnell isn’t on your ballot, then calling them isn’t worth it, even if they’re on a powerful committee. Their staff might not admit it, but it’s true.
Be authentic and vulnerable.
The power of a phone call is its authenticity. If you’d prefer to just say your name and opinion, or leave a voice mail after office hours, that’s fine. But the more personal you’re willing to be, the better. Sharing your story will always resonate more than reading from a script. And encourage your friends to do the same. Hundreds of thousands of informed, passionate calls can really start to move a conversation.
Find the contact information for representatives in all 50 states here.
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