Tips on talking about effective altruism

post by weeatquince · 2015-02-21T00:43:28.703Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · EA · GW · Legacy · 9 comments

Contents

  Tips on talking about effective altruism
    Lead by example
    Provide a personal story
    Show people how being EA can help them achieve their own goals
    Do not let people be on the defensive
    Customise
    Do not be moralising
    Be confident and be a good speaker
None
9 comments

I noticed that, over the past few years, I have collected a number of tips and introspective thoughts on how best to talk about effective altruism.

I have written this up and I posted the list of tips below. I hope this is helpful to someone. I have also posted a slightly longer article inclduing these tips on the EA Wiki at: http://effective-altruism.wikia.com/wiki/Talking_about_effective_altruism

There is also an EA pitch guide now on the Wiki at: http://effective-altruism.wikia.com/wiki/The_EA_Pitch_Guide.

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Tips on talking about effective altruism


Lead by example

Actions speak louder than words. The best way of influencing those around you is when they can see that you are donating time and money to a cause you believe in passionately – and that doing so is making the world a better place.

 

Provide a personal story

If you can tie in your own personal story of exploration of these ideas into the narrative. How did you come across EA ideas? What inspired you? What things do you do? What changed you? Etc.

If you cannot provide your own story a story of a friend will work too. Eg: “my friend K was really nervous about giving 10% but then . . .”

 

Show people how being EA can help them achieve their own goals

For example many people want to make the world better. The EA community can help them better achieve this goal. It can also help with many other common goals: provide friends / meaning / volunteering opportunities / happiness / a sense of superiority ;-p / etc.  

 

Do not let people be on the defensive

Agree with the person you are talking to as much as you honestly can. If they express a belief agree it is a valid belief and then work within that framework. Eg: “yes that makes sense as a reason to prioritise our community first, but for me personally when I realise how much good even tiny amount of donations to the developing world can . . . .” 

Do not say “no you are wrong” unless it is a very clear factual inaccuracy where you are sure you have strong evidence that will make them update their views. Even then try to soften it with a phrase like “that is a common myth actually there is current consensus is . . .”

It can be useful to begin introducing EA with a really basic uncontroversial definition that no one can reasonably disagree with, something like: "Effective Altruism is applying evidence, reason and rationality to the goal of making the world a better place."

 

Customise

How exactly we should present stuff needs to be decided on a case by case basis. Stop and think: 'here is a new person, how best to present EA ideas to them, what do I know about them'. 

 

Do not be moralising

Ideally try to avoid telling people that they are obliged to do any particular action. Especially try not to tell people that what they are currently doing is bad.

More generally you should shy away from subjective claims where you are unsure if the other person will agree with you. Such as “x is immoral” or “rap is the best music” etc.

 

Be confident and be a good speaker

All the tips here are focused on talking about EA to people. Being a good communicator in general would also help. Perhaps go do some general research into how to be a good speaker.

 


9 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Ben_Kuhn · 2015-02-21T08:01:01.386Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Be confident and be a good speaker

Seconded. One of the best changes I made to my pitch for Harvard EA was to stop sounding slightly embarrassed about effective altruism. It instantly changed the dynamic of the conversation from "are you going to be one of the 3 people who finds this weird idea interesting?" to "Hey! Check out this awesome thing you can do!"

comment by John_Salvatier · 2015-02-26T23:03:00.317Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

What does the beginning of your pitch sound like?

comment by weeatquince · 2015-02-28T02:10:12.472Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

If it helps a good start for me is "So effective altruism is really awesome, basically it means applying evidence and reason and the scientific method and so on to the goal of doing good in the world. Makes sense right? So a really simple example of this is doing research to assess charities to . . ."

comment by Ben_Kuhn · 2015-02-27T06:47:35.670Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

You reminded me that I actually already wrote this up on my blog. I've linked to it from the parent comment as well.

comment by Sebastian_Farquhar · 2015-02-25T11:43:37.007Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

"Ideally try to avoid telling people that they are obliged to do any particular action. Especially try not to tell people that what they are currently doing is bad."

A few of my non-EA friends have had similar experiences talking with EAs which backs this up. The most common is some variant of

"Have you considered doing something more effective than what you're doing now."

There may well be good ways and times to ask this question - but it's probably one for a close friend with a great deal of trust, not someone you just met.

comment by Evan_Gaensbauer · 2015-02-22T00:45:33.312Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Although it was only on the blogging carnival last month, each of us writing up our own 'EA origin stories' seems like good practice for personalizing how we introduce others to effective altruism. I like this.

comment by Evan_Gaensbauer · 2015-02-22T00:21:41.913Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Actions speak louder than words. The best way of influencing those around you is when they can see that you are donating time and money to a cause you believe in passionately – and that doing so is making the world a better place.

This varies from person to person. If someone is doing direct research or outreach on the cause they believe holds the most promise for improving the world, it seems talking about it would really shine through to other people in ways inspiring them. Effective altruism emphasizes earning to give. For the rest of us "just" donating money, it doesn't seem as action-packed. Also, earning to give is abstract.

I realized the best thing I could do was work as an actuary/electrician/dentist, and donate some of that money.

is not as exciting as

I'm organizing conferences on solving global problems by combining many sciences to inform international policy and research agendas.

Leading by example doesn't seem so easy when you look like you're doing the same desk job as everyone else. What do you suggest in this case?

comment by weeatquince · 2015-02-23T21:50:19.124Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Suggestions:

  • The simplest thing to do is be public about your donations. Tell people / post on facebook about how much you donate and where it goes.
  • If you socialise with or engage with or help run a local EA group or community then this too helps.
  • Also if you have an active interest in EA topics such as charity evaluation research or international development then this will come up in conversation
comment by Evan_Gaensbauer · 2015-02-24T08:49:18.610Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks, those sound like good suggestions!