Michael C. Taggart is one of many dedicated Living Room Conversations volunteers. A self-identified “constitutional conservative,” Michael described in an interview with Contributing Partner Gayle Yamauchi-Gleason how he discovered Living Room Conversations last year, and what he has been up to since!
I have had a growing concern about the lack of genuine listening in conversations and the damage to our culture when people don’t suspend judgment and deeply listen to one another. If we don’t talk to those with a different perspective how are we going to solve the pressing problems of the day?
As a recent retiree from a variety of administrative positions in state government and higher education I was looking for opportunities to be part of a bipartisan group that shared my concern. On my first visit to livingroomconversations.org I learned that training for anyone wanting to host conversations was available, and within the first 30 days I hosted an in-home and online conversation. I am proud to volunteer with an organization that continues to prove that with the right tools average citizens can become bridge builders and peacemakers.
One day while running errands I stopped to say hello to a friend who seemed quite distressed. Earlier that morning he had been in a heated argument with his partner in their home and walked out in anger after saying “I’m not coming back!” He expressed his anger and frustration about his situation as I listened, asked a few clarifying questions and reflected back what I had heard. He thanked me for listening and went on his way.
I was not sure how helpful I had been until I saw him the next day. He wanted me to know that he and his partner had resolved their differences and how grateful he was for our chance encounter the day before and the opportunity to be fully heard. It was a powerful reminder to me of the power of empathetic listening.
Sharing my enthusiasm about Living Room Conversations is a way I can let people who have been distressed about the division in the country know that the growing interest in Living Room Conversation is a reason for optimism about the future. It gives me greater hope to know that more and more people realize that in order to solve the major problems of our time we need to be more curious and less furious when we encounter persons with different views than ours.
For more of this interview, click here to read it in our blog. We are blessed with volunteers like Michael! We’ll feature more organizer profiles this year. Let me hear from you if you’d like to be profiled, or want us to feature your favorite host or organizer.
Beth G. Raps, PhD