3 important tips from a former congressional staffer on how to get your voice heard.

I started working as a congressional staffer in 2009. I was 22.

I had no previous government or civic service experience, but I was idealistic and wanted to show the constituents of my district that their voices mattered.

I spent the next six years working for two members of Congress, mostly listening to stories from hundreds of people with diverse backgrounds.


My day-to-day responsibilities included answering phone calls, writing letters and emails, meeting with advocacy groups, and helping individual people navigate the federal government system. It was a mentally and emotionally challenging job, but it was also one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my life. It taught me the power of an individual story and the serious duty of a congressional representative.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

It’s been two years since I worked as an aide, but I’m still pretty involved in politics. After the election results came in on Nov. 8, I was devastated.

I spent the next two days in bed or on my couch, reeling from the unexpected results. Donald Trump’s victory wasn’t what I’d expected. It felt like a more serious blow than any of the other political losses I’d seen throughout my career.

But then I woke up on Friday, Nov. 11, ready to take action. I saw my friends talking about their desire to stand against policies that would be harmful to their families and their friends' families.

Photo by Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

I posted a series of tweets, drawing from the knowledge I had as a former congressional staffer, to show how impactful a group of citizens can be when they all work together for a cause.

I outlined which specific actions would be effective. I explained how to best leverage your voice so you can be heard. Since then, those tweets have been seen nearly 24 million times on Twitter, with millions more views in articles on Facebook, Tumblr, and LinkedIn.

But there is so much more you can do, so much more that I didn’t include in those tweets.

Here’s what you need to know about taking action now against policies that could harm your loved ones once Trump takes office. It’s not enough anymore to vote once every two or four years. It’s not enough to expect that your representative will know your opinion. Now, we must make our voices heard.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

1. Research your elected officials.

Websites such as whoismyrepresentative.com allow you to put in your ZIP code and find your representatives in Congress. It’s an easy step to take, and it ensures that you’ll know who your federal, state, and local elected officials are when you need to make your voice heard. If it’s helpful to you, put their numbers in your phone. Get a general sense of who they are by reading their websites. Figure out what committees they are on and which issues matter most to them.

If you’re unclear about the different roles of the House of Representatives and the Senate, do some internet research or visit your local library and speak to a librarian. Librarians are the masters of research and can help you find the resources you need.

Photo by Jason Redmond/AFP/Getty Images.

2. Identify your key issues and get active.

Local advocacy groups and citizen lobbyist groups are powerful in the way they combine resources and forces to educate and speak out. While you might feel like your individual voice gets lost in the crowd — remember that elected officials can represent hundreds of thousands or even millions of constituents — a large group of people speaking together will be heard. Advocacy groups such as the ACLU, the Anti-Defamation League, EMILY’S List, the Native American Rights Fund, RAINN, and many others create legislative priorities at the beginning of each session. They do research and activism on a variety of issues coming before Congress, and they can use your money as well as your time.

Getting on their political action lists means you’ll know when important legislation is coming and who to call in your state and federal government.

3. Get comfortable with the phone.

The most effective tool for advocacy is still the telephone. It works because it’s immediate and personal. The staffer on the other end of the phone needs to answer your questions and take your comments immediately. I know — I’ve been on the other side of the phone. And I can promise that with enough calls, the representative’s staff will understand that there’s a problem. They’ll know they need to take action or make a statement.

If you’ve never called your reps before, you may wonder what to say. If your phone phobia is such that you need a script, go ahead and either write one or borrow one from an advocacy group. But do not underestimate the power of your own personal story.

I received a tweet that asked if staffers were used to listening to sobbing, emotional people. The answer is yes. I’ve cried on the phone with a constituent before — more than once, actually. I always kept a box of tissues by my desk, and I listened to stories that affected me profoundly. Those messages were the ones I made sure my boss heard. So, be authentic with the person on the other end of the phone about how you are feeling. They need to know how they can represent you. Your story is more important than the nitty-gritty details of how legislation works.

Photo via iStock.

However you choose to reach out to your representative, know that each message, letter, and phone call is important.

For the next few years, your activism will mean more than it ever has before.

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Photo by Gregory Hayes on Unsplash

"Can I buy you a drink?" is a loaded question.

It could be an innocent request from someone who's interested in having a cordial conversation. Other time, saying "yes" means you may have to fend off someone who feels entitled to spend the rest of the night with you.

In the worst-case scenario, someone is trying to take advantage of you or has a roofie in their pocket.

Feminist blogger Jennifer Dziura found a fool-proof way to stay safe while understanding someone's intentions: ask for a non-alcoholic beverage or food. If they're sincerely interested in spending some time getting to know you, they won't mind buying something booze-free.

RELATED: States are starting to require mental health classes for all students. It's about dang time.

But if it's their intention to lower your defenses, they'll throw a mild tantrum after you refuse the booze. Her thoughts on the "Can I buy you a drink?" conundrum made their way to Tumblr.

via AshleysCo / Tumblr


via AshleysCo / Tumblr

The posts caught the attention of a bartender who knows there are lot of men out there whose sole intention is to get somone drunk to take advantage.

"Most of the time, when someone you don't know is buying you a drink, they're NOT doing it out of a sense of cordiality," the bartender wrote. "They're buying you a drink for the sole purpose of making you let your guard down."

So they shared a few tips on how to be safe and social when someone asks to buy you a drink.

From the other side of the bar, I see this crap all the time. Seriously. I work at a high-density bar, and let me tell you, I have anywhere from 10-20 guys every night come up and tell me to, "serve her a stronger drink, I'm trying to get lucky tonight, know what I mean?" usually accompanied with a wink and a gesture at a girl who, in my experience, is going to go from mildly buzzed to definitively hammered if I keep serving her. Now, I like to think I'm a responsible bartender, so I usually tell guys like that to piss off, and, if I can, try to tell the girl's more sober friends that they need to keep an eye on her.
But everyone- just so you know, most of the time, when someone you don't know is buying you a drink, they're NOT doing it out of a sense of cordiality, they're buying you a drink for the sole purpose of making you let your guard down.

Tips for getting drinks-

1. ALWAYS GO TO THE BAR TO GET YOUR OWN DRINK, DO NOT LET STRANGERS CARRY YOUR DRINKS. This is an opportune time for dropping something into your cocktail, and you're none the wiser.

2.IF YOU ORDER SOMETHING NON-ALCOHOLIC, I promise you, the bartender doesn't give two shits that you're not drinking cocktails with your friends, and often, totally understands that you don't want to let your guard down around strangers. Usually, you can just tell the bartender that you'd like something light, and that's a big clue to us that you're uncomfortable with whomever you're standing next to. Again, we see this all the time.

3. If you're in a position to where you feel uncomfortable not ordering alcohol:
Here's a list of light liquors, and mixers that won't get you drunk, and will still look like an actual cocktail:

X-rated + sprite = easy to drink, sweet, and 12% alcoholic content. Not strong at all, usually runs $6-$8, depending on your state.
Amaretto + sour= sweet, not strong, 26%.
Peach Schnapps+ ginger ale= tastes like mellow butterscotch, 24%.
Melon liquor (Midori, in most bars) + soda water = not overly sweet, 21%
Coffee liquor (Kahlua) +soda = not super sweet, 20%.
Hope this helps someone out!

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If you do accept a drink from someone at a bar and you want to talk, there's no need to feel obligated to spend the rest of the night with them.

Jaqueline Whitmore, founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach, says to be polite you only have to "Engage in some friendly chit-chat, but you are not obligated to do more than that."

If someone asks to buy you a drink and you don't want it, Whitmore has a great tip. "Say thank you, but you are trying to cut back, have to drive or you don't accept drinks from strangers," Whitmore says.

What if they've already sent the drink over? "Give the drink to the bartender and tell him or her to enjoy it," Whitmore says.

Have fun. Stay safe, and make sure to bring a great wing-man or wing-woman with you.

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