Published 26th September 2019
Image: EA Perth
This guide on having conversations about EA was compiled from information from the outdated LEAN and EA Group/Giving What We Can chapter guides, the old Pitch Guide (last updated in 2016), EA Cambridge’s guide on talking to newcomers, Students for High-Impact Charity resources and experiences, EA forum posts by weatquince, the experiences of a number of group organisers, the LEAN team, and a variety of other sources linked throughout the pages.
Having a conversation about EA can be tricky:
- Some aspects can be complex to explain,
- EA can come across as a criticism of other people, or other ways of doing good.
This page does not deal comprehensively with all of the foundational arguments within EA. Rather it contains approaches to discussing EA that various community members have found useful when talking one on one with people about EA, or when delivering introductory presentations about EA. Of course, what works for you will depend a lot on you and on the person you are talking to. Empirical evidence is limited in this area (where there is evidence, it is cited). So, please take these ideas as suggestions rather than rules.
Aim of the Conversation
Most people we talk to will not be willing to change their actions as a result of learning about EA, so don’t expect too much! The best way to approach a conversation or an introductory presentation will depend on who you are talking to, but a reasonable aim would be to make the experience interesting and pleasant for the other people, while giving them information about EA that might encourage them to learn more.
Note that there are people who have come away from conversations with EAs with a very negative impression. Of course not everyone will agree with you, and that’s totally fine, but we want to avoid getting people unnecessarily angry about EA as they then can spread overly negative or incorrect things about effective altruism to their friends or on the internet, which does happen sometimes. This could lead to people who may be interested in EA being put off from learning more. So it is especially important to remain polite, and take time to listen and carefully consider the other person’s statements. Also, if you are in a group or on the internet, be aware of other people listening or reading your conversations.
The following pages provide some suggestions about having a fruitful conversation with people who haven’t heard of EA before, or are very new to the ideas.
If you have suggestions on how to improve this page, please comment or suggest edits on this google doc.