Many Americans don’t know that constituents contact their congress members daily. Making a call to congress is one of the most important steps moving forward and the best way to get your voice heard on tough topics. Here’s some tips on how to effectively communicate with your senator or representative and their staff:
- Did you know? Congressional leaders receive weekly Call and Mail Reports tallying support/opposition from constituents on upcoming issues. This data helps them understand which way the voting community is leaning and ultimately, make an informed decision on those issues.
- Whether you make contact via telephone, letter, fax, or email – be sure to include your name and address so they can immediately identify you as one of their constituents. If they can’t do this easily, they may disregard your communication altogether.
- Nothing tops meeting your congressman or congresswoman in person. Legislators WANT to receive and hear you out, this is a huge part of their job. This is also a great way for constituents to make an immediate impression and show how important the issue is. Note: keep in mind that they cannot meet you personally when congress is in session as they won’t be in your local office at that time. Before scheduling an appointment, double check when congress is in session and recess here.
- Unless you’ve already established a relationship with your local district office, phone calls are best suited when an issue is being voted on in the very near future so you can add your voice urging a legislator to lean one way or another. You may call weekly. When calling the office for the first time, a helpful receptionist will be your initial point of contact. Give your name and mention that you’re a constituent of the congressperson. Then very briefly state that you’re calling to support or oppose a specific issue. Example: “Hi, my name is Jane Doe and I’m a constituent of [Senator or Representative]. I’m calling to urge them to support Initiative 594. Thank you for your time.”
- You can disagree with someone but still have a civilized conversation. If you and your representative aren’t on the same page about an issue or the solution to an issue, try to be constructive rather than negative and be prepared to compromise when suggesting alternative ideas.
- Ranting, raving, and lengthy rambles will get you absolutely nowhere. No matter how upset or frustrated you are over an issue, antics like this and threats in general will be ignored and discarded. Communique is better received when presented courteously, clearly, and in your own words. If you must be pointed, then also be polite. These are humans you’re speaking to and they’re more likely to respond favorably when spoken to with a least some common decency.
- Do your homework! Educate yourself as much as possible on the issue, where your representative stands on the issue, and the specific points you want to discuss with your representative about the issue.
- If you’re reading from a script or using a letter template, be sure to stress what’s most important to *you* and address why they’re important to *you*. You are not a drone; you have thoughts, feelings, and strong opinions about the issues you’re discussing. When possible, only rely on scripts and templates to help fill the gaps.
- Again, your representatives and their staff are humans. Do not ask for or expect the impossible, especially in terms of time frames. Making big changes takes time and all the patience you can gather.