“Courage is the most important of all virtues, because without courage you cannot practice any of the other virtues consistently,” Dr. Maya Angelou said. When you think of being courageous, you might think of facing a common fear like the fear of heights or public speaking. Facing fears like these involves discomfort and uncertainty. We might wonder if the potential benefits will outweigh the potential risks. But why might it take courage to listen? How might listening to different points of view make us feel vulnerable or at risk? And what are the possible benefits?
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?
One participant can volunteer to read the paragraph at the top of the web page.
Take ~2 minutes each to answer a question below without interruption or crosstalk.
- What does “courageous listening” mean for you? Describe any times you have listened, or been listened to in this way. What happened?
- What fears, if any, do you have about how you will feel or what you will say or do when listening to people whose beliefs or experiences differ from your own?
- How do you feel when there are silence and gaps in conversations? What are the potential benefits of giving a conversation breathing room?
- What are the potential benefits you might receive from listening to others with differing beliefs or experiences?
- What, if anything, are you willing to do to overcome fears about listening to those with different beliefs or experiences?
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, including yourself?
- Is there a next step you would like to take based upon the conversation you just had?