The good news: your call WILL BE short.
With the country spiraling deeper into a fascist hellscape on a daily basis, it’s hard to keep track of all the things to be outraged about, but one thing’s for sure: we have to keep the pressure on our representatives. We have to call them out when they side with injustice. We have to thank them when they stand up for what’s right. We have to constantly demand better.
One of the most effective ways to do this is to call them. A lot.
Calling your reps is a form of activism that’s accessible to almost everyone, and takes less than a minute. But it can be daunting, especially if you’ve never done it before or have anxiety about talking on the phone. To calm your nerves and answer a few common questions (“What do I say? What will they say?!”), here are a few basic tips for calling your reps:
Know what to expect.
I think the biggest misconception about calling a politician’s office is that the person who answers the phone is going to argue with you, challenge you to support your position, or ask you a bunch of questions to prove you’re qualified to have an opinion.
Let me assure you right now: this is NEVER going to happen, especially at the federal level. The people answering the phones are inundated with calls and at this point, they’re just tallying how many people are calling about certain issues and trying to maintain their sanity. They are not going to ask you any questions, except possibly your address. They are not going to challenge you. They are not going to keep you on the phone a second longer than you want to be on the phone. They might sound a little harried (and for good reason), but the overall vibe is usually polite and efficient.
Here’s how a typical call will go:
Staffer: Senator _____’s office.
You: [gives reason for calling]
Staffer: I’ll pass that along, thank you.
Aaaaaaand scene! That’s it. Seriously.
Keep it short (and sweet).
Some people might disagree with me on this, but at this particular juncture of political resistance, long personal stories and persuasive scripts aren’t as important as the sheer volume of calls. My Tennessee senators’ office lines have been busy nonstop for WEEKS now, which is a good thing. We’ve hit a point where staffers are just trying to keep up. The goal on most issues is to keep so many calls coming in that they’re impossible to ignore.
This means that keeping your call as short as possible is not just good for your social anxiety, it’s good for the cause, and congressional staffers will appreciate it too.
If you’d like to use a script, try something like this:
Hi, my name is _________, I’m a constituent from [city and zip code]. I’m calling to urge the senator to [vote no on a piece of racist legislation/object to a cabinet nominee/stop consorting with known Nazis/etc]. Thank you so much for your time.
Again, that’s it. If you feel moved to share a personal anecdote, go for it, but know that it’s probably not going to get to your representative. Keep your calls simple and straightforward, be kind to the staffers working the phones, and call back again tomorrow.
Make your calls a daily habit.
This is an awesome idea for two reasons. First, it ensures that your calls don’t fall by the wayside when you’re busy with other stuff. But also? It takes the pressure off every call. When you’re calling every day, the stakes don’t feel as high, and it doesn’t seem as embarrassing if you stumble over your words. Because hey, you’re going to have another chance tomorrow. Practice makes perfect, y’all.
The best shortcuts to making it a habit: put your representatives’ numbers into your contacts, and set a daily alarm or calendar event to remind you to make a couple calls. I aim for two calls a day. I do more if I have the time and energy, but my goal is always two. I’m a big to-do list person, so I put “call senators” on my list every day, right between “buy bananas” and “make dentist appointment.”
Pat yourself on the back.
Once you’ve made that first call, trust me, every subsequent call will get easier. Use little incentives to reward yourself as you work on making this a habit: get your calls done before listening to your favorite podcast, do them while taking a lunchtime walk, make yourself a “25 calls = one pedicure” punch card. I like to make a few calls in the mid-morning and reward myself with an extra cup of coffee. Whatever works for you to stay motivated.
Remember: making your voice heard matters more than ever right now. If you can push yourself a little outside your comfort zone to dial up your reps for a few minutes today and help push back against injustice, please do.
And then do it again tomorrow.