Living Room Conversations

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Description

This training walks through how to host a Living Room Conversation, an approach that increases understanding, reveals common ground and allow us to discuss possible solutions.

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/topics/communicating-across-the-aisle
TOC and Guide Section
 
Background

Are you interested in building relationships with community members from different perspectives? No fancy event or skilled facilitator is needed, this training will specifically walk us through how to host a climate- or energy-oriented conversation with your own community's small group. When people of all walks of life begin to care about one another, they can begin working together to solve the problems of our time and Living Room Conversations is a new tool in moving forward towards mutual understanding and respect.

“Living Room Conversations is a critical step in helping people to see that they have a lot in common...only by learning to respect each other and working togetherin this way is real change possible.” -Mark Meckler, Cofounder, Tea Party Patriots

Facts Don’t convince people -- Science has revealed that we make over 90% of our decisions first by gut and then we justify them.  We have a hard time even hearing arguments that do not align with our beliefs.  This said, when we care about each other we listen very differently.  In fact  we care some about what our friends care about just because they are our friends.  We soften and boundaries between us and them become less hard. 

More and more people are becoming concerned about the deep divisions in this country.  We are living in increasingly separate narratives complete with differing “facts”.  The media and leaders too often focus on our differences and even at times promote intolerance of those with differing views. Relationship with treasured family and friends have been harmed.   We can change this story.  Living Room Conversations are a domestic peace initiative with a primary focus on building connection because  when we care about each other everything changes.

What is a Living Room Conversation?

Two conversation hosts from different viewpoints each invite one or two others to join together for structured conversation on a specific topic. The more diverse voices in the conversation the more fun! - age, politics, culture, religion, gender differences contribute to the conversation.

Living Room Conversations can happen anywhere: our homes, coffee shops, conference spaces, churches, and even online via video chat. 

Living Room Conversations are about extending your own network not relying on someone else most likely further away and harder to coordinate to intervene to help.  

Living Room Conversations are neutral in its intent and an exercise in understanding others' values. As a result, it’s a tool to invite other conservative friends of theirs to a LVC they think will be safe and not an opportunity to immediately push CCL.

Ground rules for CCLers hosting Living Room Conversations-- invite non-CCL members from both sides of the aisle to round out the six total slots to fill--that way we will ensure that this isn't not meant as a closet recruitment effort.

Living Room Conversations are designed not to change opinions (we're asking everyone to be vulnerable) but instead to build (and hopefully maintain) trusting long-term relationships with no expectations of future involvement with CCL.

Some may find that further down the road, the conversation does lead towards involvement in the local CCL chapter or other forms of CFD climate advocacy with their own conservative network, but this should not be a precondition for what motivates CCLers who want to try hosting a Living Room Conversation.

How to Host A Living Room Conversation

Before hosting your conversation: Send the topic link for your conversation to participants and let them know that it may be helpful for them to read through the conversation guide beforehand (knowing what the questions are can help with expectations).

1. Choose a topic

Living Room Conversations has more than 50 topics ready to discuss or your can build your own. Each topic has targeted questions for your group to answer.

2. Choose a cohost and invite friends

Try to choose a cohost with a different perspective on your chosen topic. Each cohost should invite two participants. Look for people who are curious about others' viewpoints or want to share their own.

3. Choose a date and location

To make scheduling easy, try an app like Doodle, that helps people coordinate availability. Decide on a comfortable space - maybe an actual living room, your favorite coffee shop, or even online. 

4. Register your Conversation

Registering your conversation connects you to a national network of support, and helps to iterate and grow our open-source project. You can register your conversation here.

5. Have your conversation

After everyone has gathered, go over the Conversation Agreements. 

These guidelines let everyone know what is expected of them and create a positive environment for your group to have a great conversation.

6. Give Feedback

Feedback is a critical part of the Living Room Conversations model. It helps us learn and adapt to better serve the needs of our participants. There's a lot going on behind the scenes - we're developing some exciting new programs and technologies and your feedback will help us do that.

Feedback is a critical part of the Living Room Conversations model. It helps us learn and adapt to better serve the needs of our participants. There's a lot going on behind the scenes - we're developing some exciting new programs and technologies and your feedback will help us 

Conversation Agreements

Before you begin, make sure to go over the Conversation Agreements with your guests.

This structure helps assure a good experience and allow participants to get to know each other.

Be curious and open to learning.

Conversation is as much about listening as it is about talking. Enjoy hearing all points of view. Maintain an attitude of exploration.

Show respect and suspend judgment.

Human beings tend to judge one another; do your best not to. Setting judgments aside opens you up to learning from others and makes them feel respected and appreciated.

Find common ground and note differences.

Look for a common ground you can agree on and take an interest in the differing beliefs and opinions of others.

Be authentic and welcome that from others.

Share what’s important to you. Speak authentically from your personal experience. Be considerate of others who are doing the same.

Be purposeful and to the point.

Notice if what you are conveying is or is not pertinent to the topic at hand.

Own and guide the conversation.

Take responsibility for the quality of your participation and that of the conversation. Be proactive in getting yourself and others back on track if needed.

How to facilitate your conversation

  • Make introductions and take care of any housekeeping items at the start of your conversation.
  • Assure participants that what matters is their personal perspectives, not how much they know about a subject.
  • Read the topic opening paragraph (from the conversation guide).
  • Have each person read a ground rule aloud until they have all been read.
Climate Change Living Room Conversation

It’s time to change the climate of our climate conversations by not huddling under our umbrellas with only those that think what we believe is true! Let’s be brave enough to curiously listen to a broad spectrum of views about the climate of our earth from fellow citizens. So, no matter how far nor how firmly you stand in your view of climate change, there is a space for you to individually facilitate a change in the climate of our Climate Conversations.

Round One: Getting Started / Why Are We Here?

  • What interested you or drew you to this conversation?
  • What are your trusted news sources?
Round Two: Core Values
  • Answer one or more of the following:
    • What sense of purpose / mission / duty guides you in your life?
    • What would your best friend say about who you are and what makes you “tick”?
    • What are your hopes and concerns for your community and/or the country?
Round Three: What are your biggest concerns about the topic of Climate Change?
Remember that the goal for this Living Room Conversation is for all of us to listen and learn about where we have different opinions and where we have shared interests, intentions and goals.
  • Answer two or more of the following questions:
    • Do you believe that climate change is a natural cycle of the earth, man-made or both?
    • Are you concerned about climate change? Share your views.
    • Are you frustrated by the amount of attention given to climate change? Share your views
    • Have you made any changes to your lifestyle/energy consumption due to your views on climate change?
    • Are you concerned about the quality of air, cleanliness of water sources or food sources?
    • Do you feel that everything is fine as it is and there is no need to worry?
Round Four: Reflection
  • Answer one or more of the following questions:
    • In one sentence, share what was most meaningful / valuable to you in the experience of this Living Room Conversation.
    • What learning, new understanding or common ground was found on this topic?
    • Has this conversation changed your perception of anyone in this group, including yourself?
Round Five: Accomplishment and Next Steps
  • Answer both of the following questions:
    • What is one important thing you thought was accomplished here?
    • Is there a next step you would like to take based upon the conversation you just had?
  • At the end of the conversation, please share the Feedback form link with participants and ask them to fill it out immediately so we can continue to improve Living Room Conversations.

Turn into your host or take pictures and email them to feedback@livingroomconversations.org

Though feedback is consistently positive, some people are concerned about managing people that dominate the conversation as well as off-topic, or disruptive situations during the Living Room Conversation. We offer these tips:

  • Everyone shares responsibility for guiding the conversation and is invited to help keep the conversation on track.
  • The group can decide to keep track of time in some way to help people remember to keep their comments similar in length to others. Soft music when the time is up is a great reminder.
  • If an area of interest has arisen that has taken the group off topic, ask the group if they would like to set aside the new topic for a separate Living Room Conversation.
  • If someone is dominating, disruptive or has found their soapbox, respectfully interrupt the situation, refer to the Ground Rules and invite everyone to get back on track with the current question
  • If the group opts to shift from the format of the Living Room Conversations, please provide us with feedback for future learning. There are many ways to have a great conversation! Thank you! feedback@livingroomconversations.org
How to Host an Online Living Room Conversation

The Internet is Your Living Room

In person Living Room Conversations are wonderful, but when we live in communities that have become increasingly like minded it can be challenging to have all the voices we’d like to hear from in the room.  Also we have learned that many people are reluctant to have a Living Room Conversation with a friend for fear that it might harm their relationship.  People have seen too much loss of relationships due to polarized politics.  Meeting new people by video feels safer to some people. (Some folks are having conversations cross country with old friends, friends from high school or college.)   The technology is now good enough to have a great conversation with people around the country by video.  Last year we proved this process.  This year we aim to go big.  Having a thoughtful conversation with people from around the country is a powerful way for citizens to begin to reweave the fabric of our democracy and it is fun!  

Modern technology removes the barriers that keep us from connecting with each other. Through online video chat we can have meaningful conversation with someone down the street or across the country. We can share our perspectives with others that live in communities very different from our own and, more importantly, we can learn their perspectives and what their lives are like. 

There are many options for online video chat: from Skype, to FaceTime, to Google Hangouts. If you and your participants already have a favorite platform, please use that! Otherwise, Living Room Conversations participants have come to prefer using either Appear.in or Zoom

Best Practices for Video Conversations

  • Make sure you have your topic materials available. It’s helpful to read them over before the conversation.
  • Position yourself so you are not backlit (i.e., avoid sitting in front of a window or lamp).
  • Using headphones plugged into your computer can enhance your audio experience.
  • Try to minimize environmental distractions (e.g.barking dogs, ringing phones, etc). If you have unexpected noise, please mute yourself until things quiet down.
  • Test out your video platform about 10-15 minutes ahead of time, if you can.
  • At the end of the conversation, please send your participants the feedback form link.
Length
Press play to start the video (31m 59s)
https://vimeo.com/album/5416859
Video Outline
To skip ahead to a specific section go to the time indicated in parenthesis.

Intro & Agenda
(from beginning)

What Is A Living Room Conversation?
(2:29)

How To Host An Event
(8:11)

Climate Change & Energy Topics
(12:59)

Considerations for CCL Groups
(22:43)

How To Share Your Experience
(25:36)

Final Reflections & Resources
(28:26)

Instructor(s)
Joan Blades
Downloads

Download PowerPoint or Google Slides presentation.

Download the video.

 

Audio length
Press play to start the audio (31m 59s)
Audio embed code

Audio Outline
To skip ahead to a specific section go to the time indicated in parenthesis.

Intro & Agenda
(from beginning)

What Is A Living Room Conversation? 
(2:29)

How To Host An Event 
(8:11)

Climate Change & Energy Topics
(12:59)

Considerations for CCL Groups 
(22:43)

How To Share Your Experience 
(25:36)

Final Reflections & Resources 
(28:26)

Instructor(s)
Joan Blades
Discussion Topic
To Print
Instructions for printing this page on Community.
Category
Training
Topics
Communicating with Others
Format
Audio / Video, Presentation
File Type
Google Slides, PowerPoint (.pptx)
Training Resources