How to Contact, Have an Effective Conversation with Your Congressperson
There are dozens of ways to get involved in politics. You could run for office, join a special-interest group or even become a lobbyist. But if that isn’t the route you want to go; a simpler option would be to pick up your phone and call your congressmen or women.
Giving your congresspeople a call is one of the most effective ways to make sure that they know how you – the constituent – want to be represented in regard to current issues.
When googling “how to contact my congressperson,” a U.S. Government link appears front and center. What the link brings you to is a place where you can fill out a form that will direct your message to your representative or senator. While filling out this form or writing an email can be effective, experts say making a phone call is even better, the New York Times reports.
Here are six tips to help you contact your congressperson and have an effective conversation with them:
Photo courtesy: Alexander Andrews/Unsplash
1. Identifying your Congresspeople
Let’s face it, many of us may not know who our congressional representatives are. If this is you, worry not, it’s actually quite simple to figure out. Here are two links from the U.S. Government that will help you identify who your senator or representative is:
When searching for your Senator, simply select what state you are from in the scroll bar in the top left corner of the website. This will tell you who your two senators are.
To find your representative, all you need to know is your zip code and your address. When you click the link, you will be prompted to enter your zip code in a search bar below a small map on the webpage. It is possible that your county is represented by multiple people, so you may be asked to enter your address to determine which congressperson specifically represents you.
Photo courtesy: Pexels
2. Making the Phone Call
When you pick up the phone you will want to dial 202-225-3121 to reach your House Representative and 202-224-3121 to reach your Senator.
This number will connect you to the congressional switchboard. If you know your congressperson’s extension, you can enter it here, if not, stay on the line and you will be redirected. Calling your congressperson directly is undoubtedly less intimidating, you can you use services like 5 Calls to get your Senators’ or Representative’s D.C. Office phone number. When you call, you might be given the option to leave a voicemail or to speak with a member of the congressperson’s staff. Seemingly, it’s better to speak with someone directly. It should be noted here that all calls are recorded and eventually given to the congressperson. Also, be sure to ask to speak to the congressional-aide who handles the issue you are calling in regard to.
Photo courtesy: Jim Reardan/Unsplash
3. Make Sure You Give Your Name and Tell Them You Are a Constituent
There are a few things you want to be sure you mention when speaking with your congressperson or their congressional aid. Frist, you want to make sure you give them your name. Giving your name makes it easier for the congressional aides to keep track of your request before they pass it on to your Congressperson. Second, make sure they know you are a constituent. You may have the urge to call the House Majority or Senate Majority leader, but truly – unless you are represented by them – those calls are less effective than calling your own Congresspeople. When you call, it’s important to make sure that you communicate that you are your congressperson’s constituent because, according to Global Citizen US’ Policy and Advocacy Manager Judith Rowland, “Members of Congress track engagement from their district but are much less interested in engagement outside of their district.”
She added, “Calling senators who don't represent you clogs their lines and keeps constituents from being able to log their support. Of course, there are a few exceptions like committee chairpeople and the speaker of the house.” Using Salt Lake City, Utah as an example, here is a model for how to communicate this information: “Hi, my name is [enter your name here] and I am a constituent of Salt Lake City, Utah, zip code 84044.”
Third, if your job title is relevant to the issue you are calling in reference to, mention it. For example, if you are calling to ask your Senator to vote for a heartbeat abortion bill and you are a doctor – or even better an obstetrician – make mention of that. This will add a level of importance and credibility to your request.
Photo courtesy: Pixabay
4. Be Well Researched
While you might want to call on a whim after being worked up about an issue, to have the most effective conversation, you will want to be well researched. Be up on current events regarding the issue you are calling about, know how your congressperson has voted for this issue in the past, come to the table with a compelling argument backed by statistics, know what bills regarding this issue are currently on the floor, and know if congress is in session or not. Write all of this stuff down neatly so that it is easier for you to effectively communicate your point.
Photo courtesy: Berkeley Communications/Unsplash
5. Be Brief, Clear, and Concise
Congressional aides get tons of phone calls every day. To make sure everyone can get their calls in, be brief. According to experts at Refinery 21, sharing why you stand for an issue is less important than simply sharing that you stand for it. If it is important for you to share a personal anecdote, share it, but make it short and well thought out. Here is a sample script for speaking with your congressperson: "Hello, my name is [enter your name here]. I'm a constituent from [Enter County, State and zip code here]. I don't need a response. I am calling because I am concerned about religious freedom and I strongly encourage [enter Congressperson’s name here] to vote against the Equality Act. Thank you for your time and hard work!"
If you're nervous about talking on certain issues, tools like Gov Track can help you out by generating an issue-specific script for you to read. To get a script you will have to select a bill and then enter your zip code. Scripts will be provided for points of views that are both for and against the selected issue.
Photo courtesy: Taylor Grote/Unsplash
6. Be Confident and Remember that You Are Doing Your Part
Talking on the phone can be nerve-wracking. Speaking on the phone about important national issues can be even more stressful. Just remember, by picking up the phone you are actively making a difference in this country. The people on the other end of the phone are no different than you or me. Pick up the phone with confidence knowing that today, you did your part in politics.
Photo courtesy: Akshar Dave/Unsplash