Conversation Guide

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Every day we are both being persuaded and attempting to persuade– from what to have for dinner to how to vote, when to recycle, or where to worship. We see this play out in the public square as devotees clamor for awareness of a particular social issue, worry about loved ones, or participate in democracy. How do we differentiate between authentic and manipulative persuasion? When do we give up or write someone/something off? When do we stay engaged in persuasion even when it’s difficult? This conversation explores when persuasion is effective and when it isn’t, as well as what we think is worth the effort and why.  

Background Information:

This conversation is inspired in part by themes found in Anand Giriharadas’s book The Persuaders.

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)

Each participant has 1 minute to introduce themselves.

Share your name, where you live, what drew you here, and if this is your first conversation.

Conversation Agreements:
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. 

Question Rounds:
What We’ll Talk About

Optional: a participant can keep track of time and gently let people know when their time has elapsed.

Round 1:
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?

Round 2:

Exploring the Topic -- Persuasion (~40 min)

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. 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 does it feel when friends or family try to persuade you to change your mind or take action on something? When does it feel authentic? When do you feel manipulated?
  • When do you try to persuade people (or shift their understanding or beliefs)? Are you effective? Who are you trying to persuade? Describe a specific example.
  • When or where have you resisted persuasion and why? Describe the experience. 
  • When or where have you welcomed or been moved by persuasion and why? 
  • Research has shown that people make decisions based on gut feelings rather than intellect over 90% of the time. Once the decision is made our brains create the reasoning behind the decision. Does this ring true to you? How does this data point impact the way you think about persuasion?

Round 3:
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?

Closing (~5 min)

  • Give us feedback! Find our feedback form here.
  • Donate! Make more of these possible; give here.
  • Join or host more conversations! With a) this group by exchanging your emails; b) others in person and/or by video call online. Get more involved or learn how to host here.

Thank You!