By Gayle Yamauchi-Gleason
Our organizer/volunteer, Gayle Yamauchi-Gleason shared the thoughtful write-up below about Living Room Conversations.
I’m a Living Room Conversations organizer because the Living Room Conversations model has about the lowest barrier to entry out there in terms of cross-partisan dialogue practices. It’s open source and they encourage you to either start with a conversation guide they’ve already created for over 60 topics (The American Dream, Guns & Responsibility, Money in Politics) or they offer guidance on how to create your own customized topic/questions. You can also adapt one they’ve already created.
The approach is that two friends of differing political persuasions invite two other friends and they meet for 1 ½ – 2 hours in someone’s living room or a coffee shop (or online) after agreeing on a topic. The conversations are ‘held’ together by a 6-part conversation agreement that is reviewed at the beginning in order to create ownership and buy-in for the guidelines. The conversation can be hosted by the group as a whole via the guidelines or sometimes by a designated host who completes a one hour training.
The intention is to understand; not debate or attempt to change minds. You sometimes find yourself sharing your deepest values and may even see (for the first time) how events in your past have led to the opinions and perspectives you hold today. You often find common ground where you may have thought none existed.
The challenge in some communities (like mine) is in finding more conservative conversation partners. There are some ways around this; some topics taken up by even a mostly left of center group (To Vote or Not to Vote; Affordable Housing, Status & Privilege) illustrate the differences in opinion from center to far-left. Addressing these differences on the left eventually could help one to hone skills to reach towards the right. I have also participated in many LRCs online via zoom and have experienced more diverse groups for conversations, some with whom I have met with 2-3 times on various topics.
If you would like to learn more about being a Living Room Conversation organizer and/or host, we’d love to hear from you!