Posted in full at: http://ift.tt/2iPH5qK at January 07, 2017 at 09:00AM
Look, we know—it’s not fair. But these days, the “ways you can help” all seem to involve making phone calls. For some of us, that’s the worst. Personally, I would rather have my teeth drilled than make a phone call.
If this is you, you’re not alone. As we speak, thousands if not millions of Americans with social anxiety are eyeing their phones and wondering if they can do it. Even people without anxiety find it daunting to call their Congressional representatives. It’s normal and okay to find these calls nerve-wracking.
If you need some encouragement, first read this delightful webcomic about how to call your reps in Congress if you have social anxiety. If you finish that and still need more, come back here and keep reading.
Why do I have to call them?
Phone calls are so effective at getting your Congressperson’s attention because someone has to stop what they’re doing and talk to you. They can’t put you aside and deal with you later, they have to talk to you now. And people remember things that interrupt their day.
Of course, Congressional representatives also have to open and read every letter sent to them. Which makes a letter (on paper, with a stamp, sent through the U.S. Postal Service) the next-best way to get your message to them if a phone call just isn’t possible.
Here’s Emily Ellsworth, a former Congressional staffer, explaining why phone calls (and to a slightly lesser degree, letters) are so powerful.
Wait, I don’t know how to Congress!
Let’s back up. In Congress, you are represented by three people: the two U.S. Senators for your state, and the U.S. Representative for your district. You are a “constituent” of these people, whoever they are, whatever party they belong to, whether you voted for them or not. That means it’s their job to represent your interests in Washington. Normally, it’s a hassle for them to find out what their constituents want, so they love it when you call them! Technically, your Representative is more directly responsive to you (that’s why you vote for them once every two years instead of every six), but Senators need to hear from their constituents too.
You can find these folks’ names and contact info here:
You’ll notice they have multiple offices: one in Washington, D.C. and at least one in their home state. Try them first at one of their district (state) offices. If you can’t get through on that line, try their Washington line.
Also, please note that, since we just had an election, your representatives in Congress might be changing soon! Newly elected Congresspeople will take office January 3, 2017. If you don’t know whether you’ll have a new Senator or Representative in January or not, check out the 2016 election results by state.
So what do I say to this person?
First of all, you won’t talk to them, you’ll talk to a member of their staff—or you’ll talk to their voicemail. And the call itself will be short. A staffer will answer, you’ll identify yourself, and then you’ll launch right into your spiel.
So before you dial that number, write a script. Here’s what a good call script looks like. And actually, it’s way easier to use somebody else’s. Our posts will always include call scripts when possible, which you can customize or use out of the box.
Need a call script right now? Here’s an amazing list of issues, phone numbers and call scripts that everyone should bookmark.
The staffers won’t argue with you or make you defend your position. They don’t care if you say word-for-word what somebody else said, or if you sound like you’re reading, or if you’re super awkward. They honestly give zero shits. They’ll have a spreadsheet for issues people call about, like “object to Steve Bannon’s appointment,” “requesting full investigation of foreign hacking,” or “supporting Affordable Care Act,” and when you call, they will add you to the tally. Then they’ll tell the Senator or Representative something like, “We’ve gotten 977 calls asking you to publicly object to Steve Bannon in the White House.” If that number gets high enough, the Senator or Representative will realize they need to do something. So you don’t need to make a nuanced argument; you don’t need to be persuasive. All you gotta do is stumble through your script.
Can you walk me through a typical call?
As an anxious person, I feel better when I know what to expect. So let me give you a sense of how this call will go.
When you call a Senator or Representative’s office, you’ll get a staffer whose literal job is to take your call and note your concern. That means they will behave like professionals. They are trained to be polite and respectful—even when callers are not. Every caller is a potential voter, after all. Here’s a pretty standard call:
Staffer: Good afternoon. This is Senator [NAME]’s office.
Me: Hello! My name is [NAME], and I’m a constituent of Senator [NAME]’s. I’m calling because I am gravely concerned about Steve Bannon’s appointment in the Trump Administration. Bannon is known to have strong ties to white supremacists and this appointment sends a dangerous message. I’m asking that Senator [NAME] stand up for American ideals by speaking out against this appointment and working to block Bannon’s influence.
Staffer: I see. I’ve made a note of your concerns and will relay them to the Senator. Thank you for your call.
Me: Thank you very much for your time. I appreciate it. Have a good day.
Staffer: You too. Goodbye.
That’s it. As you can see, there’s not much back-and-forth. Once the staffer answers, you just start reading your script. Sometimes they’ll make a note of your name, sometimes they won’t. Sometimes they’ll ask where you’re calling from, sometimes they won’t. And then the call will end.
I’ve talked to about 20 staffers this week and they’ve all been somewhere between “briskly professional” and “actively delightful.” When I called Senator Graham’s office, the staffer thanked me three times for calling, double-checked that she’d gotten all the points of my message, and wished me a lovely day. Even the longer calls with chattier staffers lasted about two minutes. In the only call that was even slightly negative, the staffer cut in once it became clear I wasn’t a constituent. He quickly thanked me for my call and got off the phone. It wasn’t hostile, just brusque.
How many of these calls do I have to make?
Somewhere between zero and a thousand? Look—with things the way they are, you could spend all day on the phone if you wanted.
So let’s just start with one.
- Pick one issue, and one representative
- Find the phone number you need
- Put your call script in front of you
- And make that call
Once it’s over, then see how you feel about making the next one.
For me, calling has gotten easier with time. But I can’t say “I have to make [x number of] calls”—I can only take it one call at a time. And after five or so, I’m done for the day. That’s my limit.
Maybe your limit is higher, or maybe it’s lower. Or maybe you’ve got one call in you, period. That’s okay. That call matters.
Any other tips for anxious callers?
Sure! Here are some other things we’ve tried:
Get organized (or don’t)
Personally, I need to make fussy documents with phone numbers and call scripts and elaborate color-coding. That level of preparation soothes me. But it stresses some people out even more. They need to act spontaneously so they don’t have a chance to think about it. The trick is, know which type of anxious person you are and act accordingly!
Get a friend to help you commit
Tell your friend what you’re planning to do, and ask them to encourage you and help you stay accountable. Maybe you can do the same for them!
If calling takes a lot out of you, give yourself a little reward for every call you make. Let yourself feel proud of that accomplishment. And keep a tally so you can remind yourself how much you’ve already done!
Play a role
Sometimes it helps to imagine I’m someone else: someone with lots of confidence! I think to myself, “How would that person handle this call?” and then I put on that role and make my call. Dunno if that’ll work for you, but it’s worth a try!
What if I don’t speak English or I have a disability that prevents me from communicating over the phone?
Your Congressperson may have people on staff who speak your language. Ask the staffer who answers if you can talk to someone who does.
If that isn’t possible, or if you aren’t able to communicate over the phone for any other reason, consider asking someone to make the call on your behalf. This person can modify your call script to say, “I am calling on behalf of/as a translator for [YOUR NAME].” That’s totally fine!
But maybe the phone just isn’t happening. That’s okay! If calling isn’t possible, send a letter! Emily Ellsworth, the former Congressional staffer everyone has been linking to, recommends sending letters to your Congressperson’s district (state) office.
Any final words of encouragement?
You can do this! You don’t have to be smooth or persuasive, just audible! And you can always send a letter if the phone ain’t happening. Even one call, or one letter, will make a difference. And if you make one call, you might find yourself eager to make another. Give it a try!
- Contact info for U.S. Senators
- Contact info for U.S. Representatives
- Find your Representative by zip code
- Ballotpedia: 2016 election results by state
- “We’re His Problem Now” Calling Sheet (bookmark this!)
More Advice and Support
- How to call your reps if you have social anxiety
- Advice on contacting your reps from a former Congressional staffer
- Call the Halls: Contacting Your Representatives the Smart Way
- How to call your member of Congress
- Wondering what a call to Congress actually sounds like?
- Sharon Wong helps phone-averse folks call their elected officials
- Kelsey explains what happens when you call a Congressperson
Tags:some of these may be borrowed tags, the-anxious-activist, PDWCrosspost, activism
Tumblr post (this is likely a reblog, and may have more pictures over there)
January 07, 2017 at 09:00AM