Recently your social media feed has probably been full of posts from your friends saying things like “Call your congressman/representative/senator and tell them what you think about x/y/z issue”. So many issues, so little time. (Do you ever wonder if your friends actually call? Or is that just me?) Regardless, if you’re anything like me, the idea of calling your elected officials makes you nauseous, anxious and stuck in paralyzed limbo. To call or not to call, that is the true Shakespearean question. Whether you have no idea who your congressional representatives are or call so much that you feel like Adele yelling into the void, read on, because we feel you.
If you have no idea who your representatives are, no judgment. You’re going to learn and that’s what counts. Or maybe you think you know, but don’t know their phone number. Either way, Contacting Congress has everything you need. (https://contactingcongress.org/) All you have to do is type in your address and they will do the rest. Contacting Congress will not only provide you with their contact information (address, telephone number, fax number), but also all the links you need to study up on them. Peruse their social media sites, learn about their committee appointments and see statistics about their district. (Which, really, is your district.)
Life Hack: Save their number in your phone. (Really, I’ll wait.) It’ll be annoying to look it up every time. Plus, only having to click on their contact listing has helped me to use my impulsive side to my advantage. One click and the phone is ringing before you can even stop yourself.
Before you call, have an idea of what you’re going to say. This can be as simple as thinking it through, or actually writing it down. (I recommend having something written down because my mind tends to go totally blank at very inopportune moments.) If you’re calling about a more popular issue, there’s a good chance that people on the internet have written and posted mock scripts for others to use. All you have to do is insert your name and your representatives name and then you can read it word for word. If you’re calling your local representative (which I highly recommend), then there may not be a script available online. (Although it may be worth a quick Google search.) I usually keep it simple and say my name, address and which way I want them to vote on a specific issue. If you have a story or reason that you feel passionate, feel free to tack that on the end.
Life Hack: Does the idea of actually having to talk to an office staffer make you feel like you’d rather listen to ‘Call Me Maybe’ on repeat for the rest of your life than call? (This is 1000000% me.) If so, just call before the office opens. Nothing like guaranteed voicemail to help assuage some of that anxiety. Yes, sometimes their voicemail boxes are full. If that happens, I wait until right after the office closes and try again. Usually, they’ve cleared the voicemail sometime throughout the day. (If not, I recommend joining in on to the complaining that is probably already happening on Twitter.)
(Bonus life hack: Start out calling a representative that did something you agree with. Nothing will make you feel more invincible than leaving a positive message. I like to end my voicemails to Bob Casey by yelling ‘Keep fighting Senator Casey!’ It makes me smile and I like to think that it makes someone in his office smile too.)
If, after all this, I’m still struggling to make the call, I offer myself the same pep talk. Even if I’m the most awkward person that staffer talks to (or listens to, if I’ve left a voicemail), tomorrow is another day and there will be another awkward person to take my place. Recently people have been flooding offices with calls and the time for judgment between calls is fleeting. And, even if they are judging you, you aren’t the one making the decisions that are causing all these calls. On a scale of awkward or hated politician, I will always pick awkward.