3 science communication tips from a pro: Geneticist Kevin Folta explains how to build trust with GMO skeptics

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Credit: Gizem Vural
Credit: Gizem Vural

Kevin Folta, professor at the University of Florida, has dedicated much of his professional life to not only pushing the envelope on what’s possible scientifically, but also helping dispel myths related to the field

The best way to reach your audience or neighbors? Figure out what they care about. Here’s a few tips to get your conversation off on the right foot:

  1. Avoid inundating people with facts and figures. Talk about why you care about science. Make it personal and broaden your motivation…
  2. Cater your conversation to the person you’re talking to. If you’re talking to another scientist, feel free to get into the details and the processes. However, when you’re talking with the general public or someone with little to no scientific background, meet them where they’re at…
  3. Ask questions and show empathy. Folta took this lesson from learning about hostage negotiations — use tactical empathy, especially when dealing with a hostile person. “How can you use effective listening? How can you demonstrate you’re listening? Display that you’re open and understand where they’re coming from as if you’re in their shoes,” he says.

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While you might not agree with every point others make, it’s important to understand their backgrounds and why they think they way they do. Employing these three tactics gets you off to the right start when it comes to communicating.

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