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Fight, ﬂight and freeze are classic primal responses to danger and conﬂict. But these are not our only options. Human relationships beneﬁt from more caring, connective engagement. Good marriages, treasured friendships and healthy communities do better when healthy engagement is the normal response to conﬂict. Disagreement is a part of human relationships. When we listen to each other with curiosity and care about each other’s needs it is more possible to live together happily – and hold the tension of our differences.
Background Information:This conversation is inspired in part by themes found in Amanda Ripley’s book High Conflict:Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out.
Let's Get Started!
Living Room Conversations offers a simple, sociable and structured way to practice communicating across differences while building understanding and relationships. Typically, 4-6 people meet in person or by video call for about 90 minutes to listen to and be heard by others on one of our nearly 100 topics. Rather than debating or convincing others, we take turns talking to share, learn, and be curious. No preparation is required, though background links with balanced views are available on some topic pages online. Anyone can host using these italicized instructions. Hosts also participate.
Why We're Here (~10 min)
Share your name, where you live, what drew you here, and if this is your first conversation.
How We'll Engage (~5 min)
These will set the tone of our conversation; participants may volunteer to take turns reading them aloud. (Click here for the full conversation agreements.)
- Be curious and listen to understand.
- Show respect and suspend judgment.
- Note any common ground as well as any differences.
- Be authentic and welcome that from others.
- Be purposeful and to the point.
- Own and guide the conversation.
What We’ll Talk About
Optional: a participant can keep track of time and gently let people know when their time has elapsed.
Getting to Know Each Other (~10 min)
Each participant can take 1-2 minutes to answer one of these questions:
- What are your hopes and concerns for your family, community and/or the country?
- What would your best friend say about who you are?
- What sense of purpose / mission / duty guides you in your life?
Healthy Conﬂict (~40 min)
Take ~2 minutes each to answer a question below without interruption or crosstalk. After everyone has answered, the group may take a few minutes for clarifying or follow up questions/responses. Continue exploring additional questions as time allows..
- How would you describe your go-to response to conflict?
- Does your response to conﬂict differ signiﬁcantly based upon the relationships involved? (Family, friends, community members….)
- What did you learn about conﬂict as a child?
- Describe a time that conﬂict allowed you to deepen a relationship or create a better solution.
- Describe a time that conﬂict undermined a relationship or the ability to solve a problem.
Reflecting on the Conversation (~15 min)
Take 2 minutes to answer one of the following questions:
- What was most meaningful / valuable to you in this Living Room Conversation?
- What learning, new understanding or common ground was found on the topic?
- How has this conversation changed your perception of anyone in this group?
- Is there a next step you would like to take based upon the conversation?