Here's a straightforward approach to dealing with denial. Most of these points make sense to me:
Tips for dealing with denial
- Communicate a consistent message. Do not attempt to “soften the blow” too much, by making the issue seem less than it is.
- Try not to provide too much information at one time. This sometimes can overwhelm [deniers]. Keep the first meeting as brief and succinct as possible, and end with the scheduling of a follow-up meeting.
- Ask open-ended questions, and allow [deniers] plenty of time to talk. Undoubtedly, they are fearful of losing something very important—health, independence, or optimism/faith about the future.
- Explain to [deniers] that information is something that you can provide, but that it is their choice what, if anything, they want to do with the information provided. Ask them what they want to know about, and let them guide the conversation.
- Provide reading materials, which [deniers] can peruse at their own discretion.
- End your meetings with [deniers] positively, and try to instill in them a sense of self-confidence in their abilities to [deal with the problem].
- Recommend support groups, whenever possible.
- Make it clear that the [problem] will never “go away,” .. but emphatically explain that [solutions] can lessen the severity of the [problem].
- Explain to [deniers] that even if they do not believe that [the problem exists], the recommendations that you are making certainly will not harm them in any way. Ask them to humor you by making an attempt to follow your advice for a little while.
- Know that [people] in denial often will refuse to admit that they are upset. They claim they are not upset—after all, nothing is wrong. Ask them how they would feel if they really did have the [problem] that they are denying that they have.
- Remember that tough love often does not work with [people] in denial. Many [authorities] have said, “There is not much use talking to you right now. Just call me when you accept that __________.” They never hear from the [denier] again. Do not expect that [denier] will independently have a sudden insight. However, you can say, “I feel like you have other things on your mind today. We can talk more about this tomorrow at noon. Please feel free to call me if you have any questions before then.”
- Expect [deniers] to direct their anger at you. Many times when you try to deconstruct their carefully built wall of denial, [deniers] will become angry. Do not react to this anger.
Some pretty sound advice there, I reckon. Some of it I've already seen in action in climate circles, some not.
The source? Medical clinical denial advice.
I wonder why more climate advocates haven't looked at this kind of thing? Seems like a fairly obvious starting point, even if it can't be linearly extrapolated to large groups...