New Tool: Living Room Conversations Cohorts

Last week, we asked: What’s Next, US?  We know Living Room Conversations are part of the answer. And Living Room Conversations cohorts may be a growing part of the answer! Here is how they work–written by a member of my very own cohort, Becca Rehberger–a conservative writer and Living Room Conversationalist from Wisconsin. (Please email me back if you’d like to organize a cohort!) –Beth Raps, Development Partner, Living Room Conversations

Most of the time, we simply call ourselves “our cohort.” We are a group of six women who met through Living Room Conversations last January for an online conversation on “Talking Politics,” and we’ve met nearly every month since then. Each time we meet, we affirm our common bond. Despite our generational, geographical, and ideological differences, we’ve built a relationship based on trust, respect, and an eagerness to learn from and about each other.

Our cohort started out as an ordinary Living Room Conversation; the only difference was that we started our conversation online in a Zoom meeting. We hadn’t set out to form a lasting group. However, at the end of that first Conversation, we realized that we hadn’t said everything we wanted to say, and we agreed to keep meeting. Over the past year, our monthly meetings have become a source of joy and camaraderie for us, a way to welcome and explore our own and others’ ideas.

The process of building our group may seem as though it happened spontaneously, but each of us worked hard to grow our relationships. Here’s what we did:

  • We got help. Two members of our group are experienced hosts for Living Room Conversations; they guided the rest of us towards having a successful conversation. We’ve gained skills in helping each other use the video technology.

  • We brought friends. Of the six of us, four knew one other member of the group before they joined.

  • We found a role for everyone. One member of our cohort is fantastic at asking questions, and her contributions have provided fuel for hours of discussion. And each member of the group has equal input in deciding what topic to tackle next.

  • We committed and coordinated. Despite having online-only meetings, we treated our discussions as an important appointment and made time for each other. We’ve also had our conversations at the same time each month, in order to make that commitment easier.

  • We chose relational topics. We are drawn to topics where self-disclosure was vital.  “Righteousness and Relationships,” “Freedom,” and “Forgiveness” are all about the way our beliefs affect the way we connect (or don’t connect) with others. While we could have bonded over homelessness or health insurance or education, tackling topics about beliefs and relationships allowed us to explore our most deeply held values and beliefs.

But the most important thing, I feel, is that each of us was unafraid to be our authentic selves, even before we knew that it would be entirely safe.

From the beginning, our country’s political landscape and public life have always been filled with mudslinging, personal attacks, and doomsaying. The main difference today is that our communications, in addition to enlightening and connecting us, have also allowed us to drink deep from the bitter well of hatred as much as we want — if that is what we as a society choose to do.

All of us in our cohort were seeking a remedy for our times, and we’ve found it here, in a group of people that we perhaps would not have expected. These days, learning from each other and growing in our understanding of each other and ourselves is both the goal and the means. Our endgame is not to acquiesce or even to agree, but to understand.

PS: We are proud of this post-election Chicago Tribune article on our work! And, as always, see our buttons below to donate (thank you!) or join our upcoming Conversations–especially the ones in honor of the International Day for Tolerance which takes place this Friday! Last, use the buttons at the top of this email to share the good news we co-create each week–or just forward this email!