Imagine thousands of citizens from all different walks of life and political viewpoints sharing their hopes for the future and finding they have a great deal in common. Then consider these conversations going on to create better understanding around important issues that we must address together. Imagine open, respectful conversations about the most challenging issues that America faces. We may have different answers to the questions we face and different views about the issues but still share a common vision. Imagine exploring how to improve our family and community’s ability to adapt and meet whatever challenges may lie ahead.
How can this happen? Imagine talking with a few friends and a few people new to you--some who tend to agree with your ideas, and some who may have a very different perspective. Imagine citizens like yourself, in living rooms across the country, demonstrating how we can listen respectfully to what we each really care about and discover what we may have in common. Imagine ordinary folks actually demonstrating for themselves (and for our political leaders) what respect and cooperation look like? Imagine that these conversations lead to specific actions that could be taken together.
Would you be interested in participating in this bold experiment to build trust and move beyond the bickering?
We have a simple plan, prepared materials and support - if needed - for you to co-host an unscripted, respectful 2 1⁄2 hour conversation with five other people. At a time when our country appears to be deeply divided, it is up to each of us to take a stand and do something to bring us together. Is this your time and your stand? Please read on. 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.
Dear Potential 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.
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
The principles of a Living Room Conversation are:
- Invite friends-of-friends for a relationship-based, self-hosted and self-guided living room conversation among people with different 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
- Steer 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
The Living Room Conversations that have already taken place show that it is possible for people who are quite different from one another to come together and make meaningful connections through dedicated listening and mutual respect. Here are a few comments we’ve received about what was appreciated as a result of participating in a Living Room Conversation.
"Just having 'the other side' becomes human to each other. I don't think anyone's mind was changed, but at least we understand what the 'other side's' thought process is." -AS, Colorado
"Delightful people whom I really enjoyed, regardless of their views." --IR, Colorado
"I have been so hungry for so long for a chance at conversation like that. I would be interested in having ongoing structured and facilitated conversations which would delve deeper into some of the different perspectives which we discussed last night." -- MS, Colorado
How It Works
- Ask a friend who has a different perspective from yours to co-host the Living Room Conversation (LRC). Use this invitation to help invite and inform the other co-host.
- Schedule the day and time for the event. As co-hosts, plan to be there early and to stay a little after the 2 1⁄2 hour “formal” part of the LRC.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- Anyone who is curious about, and interested in reaching out to, those they usually avoid