Host Conversation Guide

Hello Friends:
Living Room Conversations has developed a practical and personal approach to hosting rewarding and productive conversations among people with different political perspectives. Our country’s polarized political game has affected how we relate, or avoid relating, across our political differences at the local level and in our everyday lives. We often avoid talking about important (politicized) issues for fear of getting into another argument and further straining relationships with people who are otherwise our friends, family, co-workers and members of our community.

But you might ask: How could I begin to have these important conversations? How can I better approach someone I usually avoid? How could I possibly invite political opposites to sit face to face and productively explore an issue that usually provokes a heated argument?

Living Room Conversations is the answer to these questions. It offers you an opportunity to take the initiative and model the change you seek. You can become a “game changer” by hosting a Living Room Conversation. You will bring people together, help them get beyond political differences, and focus on revealing personal and shared purpose and passion to do what is good for the future of our community and country. A more complete description of the opportunity follows this letter from Joan Blades, co-founder of MoveOn.org, MomsRising, and co-creator of Living Room Conversations.

Thanks for joining this grand social experiment!

Dear Co-Hosts:
I live in a community of people that I'm sure want this country to be a great place to live both now and in the future for our children and grandchildren. Yet when I watch our leaders and media, the focus seems to be primarily on our differences. Some of us believe that the risks of climate change make it the most urgent issue that we must address together. Others believe it is our economy or big government that are the urgent issues to address. I find myself disheartened and doubting that our leaders have any idea of how to change the polarized game of politics and to make meaningful progress.While watching this sad game played on the national and local stages, I wonder if just maybe, common sense, respectful conversation within a community might result in more constructive understanding of our diverse perspectives and a more healthy approach to achieving the big goal that we all desire- a bright future for our communities and our children.Perhaps we could help lead the leaders out of this sad bickering we find ourselves engaged in again and again, despite the earnest desire many have to find common ground. Perhaps here in our local communities with six people of good will who hold different viewpoints, we can begin to discover how we can have a meaningful conversation that will suggest how to exit this hall of mirrors. Locked in perpetual distrust and competitive bickering we render ourselves ineffective and fail to create that future we all desire.Thanks so much for considering this opportunity to show that people with different political views can have a rewarding conversation that starts with a divisive issue and ends with a sense of appreciation or even partnership and willingness to work together for a better future.
--Joan Blades

Living Room Conversations Principles

  • Invite friends-of-friends for a relationship-based, self-hosted and self-guided Living Room Conversation among people with different political perspectives
  • Focus the conversation first on revealing shared senses of purpose and passion
  • Move the conversation to a subject that may also be highly "politicized"
  • Allow everyone to express and take in the full range of one another’s priority issues, concerns and / or visions on any topic and at any scale
  • Steering away from debating differences of opinion or differences of priority concerns; the intent is to listen and discover intersections of common concern
  • Explore the ground that has been established for opportunities to continue the conversation, gather for socializing / further relationship building, or perhaps find opportunities to cooperate on a new or existing project or initiative.

Living Room Conversations are intended to show that it’s not difficult and perhaps even easy, to make meaningful connections with people one may disagree with politically. When friends invite friends to a well- designed gathering and are supported with a Conversation Guide and Information Packet we have seen that respectful and meaningful conversations and new relationships often result. (There is more information and details about the intended outcomes of this project at the end of this document.)

How it works

  1. Ask a friend who has a different political perspective from yours to co-host the Living Room Conversation. Use this invitation to help invite and inform the other co-host.
  2. Schedule the day and time for the Living Room Conversation (LRC). As co-hosts, plan to be there early and to stay a little after the 2 1⁄2 hour “formal” part of the Living Room Conversation.
  3. Download and print the Living Room Conversation Packet and find the Participant Invitation along with all the other materials you will need to prepare for and guide the LRC.
  4. Each of you (co-hosts) attach a short cover letter to the Participant Invitation and set out to confirm two other friends to attend; the goal being to have six participants total.
  5. Have at least one co-host planning meeting and carefully go over all the materials, print the needed handouts and get prepared for hosting and guiding the LRC.
  6. All participants are asked to fill out a feedback form about their experience to contribute to the open- source community. Please collect these forms and send them to Living Room Conversations via email or fax.

Who should come

  • Friends
  • Neighbors
  • Colleagues
  • Family
  • Anyone who is curious about, and interested in reaching out to, those they usually avoid

The intended outcomes of a living room conversation are:

  • To generate a spirit of mutual curiosity, respect and appreciation among those of differing political / issue perspectives
  • To bring forth the trust and courage to generously express and actively appreciate one another’s revealing of heartfelt values, principles and deeper sense of purpose
  • To listen generously and actively support the discovery of common interest and concern
  • To inspire a sense of openness, willingness and even partnership for further connecting or cooperating in some way about shared concerns
  • To evoke a direct experience of an authentic, meaningful and rewarding conversation
  • To foster a sense of confidence and willingness in participants to take initiative to reach out to those they usually avoid or even host a Living Room Conversation of their own