As we approach the 2020 elections, we are aware of our political differences. Some polarization is a natural part of an election as a way of differentiating between political parties and candidates, but today we are increasingly seeing Americans who vote for other parties not just as different or wrong, but as morally corrupt, evil. Contributing to this, based on our politics, we read different news sources that support our existing narratives. This kind of polarization can halt progress on important policies–even ones with a majority of the country’s support—sparking anger and resentment in politics, fraying our social fabric, and leading more people to fear the potential for violence.
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?
Polarization (~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 have you experienced polarization in the last few years? What, if anything, has changed in your own behavior?
- What do you see as your responsibility to hear a different side?
- Are you aware of a positive outcome arising from a new understanding of a different perspective? What happened?
- What do you wish someone else would do to address polarization?
- What could you do to address polarization?
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?