articles and columns

Climate one event

By Sarah Berg. Reprinted from Huffington Post.

We are living in a cultural moment in which this basic thing about what it means to be human—face-to-face conversations—feels like a fading art. And it feels urgent to recover it.

As President Obama said in his farewell speech in January, “If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the Internet, try talking with one of them in real life.”

So the simple but profound elements that make up Living Room Conversations—the same ground rules we used in Kindergarten, and questions that get at our hearts and values and personal experiences—seem to offer us a way back into meaningful conversations with each other.

A client of mine, Climate One at the Commonwealth Club, wanted to engage professionals who work on water issues in the state of California. We decided to see what would happen if we had experts who work on different aspects of water—policy, research, technology, agriculture, environment, etc.—spend time together talking not about policy, but about personal experience.


Those people are us

By Shelly Jenson. Reprinted from Huffington Post.

I am fairly new to the dialogue world. It was a mere two years ago that I attended my first dialogue event and it was so profoundly different from anything I had ever experienced that I simply had to learn more. As I have become more involved with the dialogue community, I’ve found that my deepest passion is in bringing together communities which do not normally engage — person-to-person.

This passion has led me on a journey in which I have contacted dozens of community leaders and organizations across the vast spectrum of society that is nestled between the Wasatch and Oquirrh mountains, the valley home of Salt Lake City. 

When I plunged into this endeavor, it was with the hopes of sharing both my passion for dialogue and my passion for collaborations across divides. I have not been disappointed as many new partnerships are underway, but while many possibilities have arisen, I have also experienced adverse reactions to the proposal of dialogue across divides; even with groups I have been invited to speak with.


The political is now personal

By Ralph Benko. Reprinted from Huffington Post.

Eugène Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People

The Rasmussen polling company recently issued a bulletin headlined “A lot of Americans have hard feelings after last November’s presidential election.” This is not a surprise but it is good to have it quantified: 

“A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 40% of Likely U.S. Voters think the election has negatively affected their personal relationship with a friend or family member. 
“Fifty-four percent (54%) of voters who Strongly Disapprove of the job President Trump is doing say the election has hurt a personal relationship. Just 35% of those who Strongly Approve of Trump’s job performance agree.

“Seventy-seven percent (77%) of all voters now think Americans today are less tolerant of each other’s political opinions than they were in the past. That’s up from 70% in November. Voters were last this pessimistic just weeks before the 2012 presidential election. Only 11% think Americans are more tolerant of each other’s views than in the past, while 10% think the level of tolerance is about the same.”
Women and younger voters are more likely than men and those 40 and over to say a personal relationship has suffered because of the election. But older voters agree with women that there is less political tolerance in America today.


Don’t take the hate bait

By Mary Gaylord. Reprinted from Huffington Post.


We do it constantly, almost without thinking, hook, line, and sinker. The Free Dictionary defines this idiom as follows: “to be tricked into believing something without any doubts.” 

We take the hate bait. And then we share the hate bait — we tweet it, post it, talk about it.

Hate bait is when someone bites on, reacts to, and/or spreads some incendiary story, post, tweet, or the like. It gets one’s dander up and blood boiling. It serves as a catalyst to get us or our adversary poised to jump on a high horse and go for a ride. It can feel so righteously poignant, clever, and in-your-face. 

Some of us live for it. We can hardly wait for someone to do or say something so we can join them or oppose them and show anyone else who is paying attention, how right we are and how wrong they are. We go with the emotional rush, not bothering with mundane details like accuracy or truth. We take the hate bait, hook, line, and sinker. And we share it.


Want more effective action? start with dialogue.

By Debilyn Molineaux. Reprinted from Huffington Post.

Our society is forever pushing us to “do something” to leave the world a better place for our children.

Action is valued. Conversation and dialogue seem less important.

How do we decide what action to take? And who do we include in the decision making? Let’s look first at the types of conversations* (as distinct from dialogue) we can identify:



Clinton played Pictionary. Trump played Risk.

By Debilyn Molineaux. Reprinted from the Huffington Post.

I like to describe our country as “the big, raucous American family.” And there is hardly a better opportunity to build family connections than with games. Or a more revealing way to understand each other and ourselves, than by the tactics we use within the game.

My dad used to slip Monopoly money to my sister, because he couldn’t stand to see anyone lose. Our neighbor was outraged that my dad wouldn’t follow the rules of the game. Another card game we played with friends, Nertz, has a shared playing field and a private one. I was outraged when one of our friends refused to play in the shared field because it would benefit our team. He was in it to win. No holds barred. As you may imagine, I am accustomed to more coopetition than winner-take-all. (Thanks, Dad!) I learned much about people from playing games with them and also tapped into my own hyper-competitive side on occasion.


Harder since the left entered tizzyland

By Ralph Benko. Reprinted from The Huffington Post.


Image licensed under Creative Commons

As the “second most conservative man in the world,” according to a Washington Post Magazine humor columnist, I much prefer reading, and get most of my news from, publications of the left. Like The Huffington Post, Mother Jones, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic Monthly.


I already know what I think. Variety is the spice of life. 

Reading writings from members of my own Tribe doesn’t usually challenge my thinking. There are plenty of smart people on the left as well as on the right. I like to have my opinions challenged. Exposing myself to thoughtful counternarratives and counterarguments helps me gain a more complete perspective. It helps me compensate for my own blind spots.

Everyone has blind spots. I do. You do. 

It is fascinating to discover what’s inside them.

For the same reason I relish being part of constituted by the wonderful MoveOn co-founder Joan Blades to bring people of differing viewpoints together to hear one another and celebrate varied creeds. I try to listen not to identify the blind spots of others but to help myself confront my own.


Ebenezer Scrooge — Republican or Democrat — Bah humbug!

By Mary Gaylord. Reprinted from The Huffington Post.


Bah humbug to candidates, elections and anyone who didn’t vote the way I did!

On the heels of the election season there has been and continues to be a whole lot of bah humbugging going on. Admittedly, I’ve been one of the humbugging voices. 

“A Christmas Carol is more than just a story. It is a tirade against greed, selfishness and neglect. It uses the story of a rich man - the startlingly nasty Scrooge - to highlight the plight of those affected by the greed and meanness he exemplifies. Ignorance and Want remain the prime movers behind so many of the world’s ills. But Dickens was having a go at his complacent readers - he was chastising them about their own ignorance - an ignorance that was in many cases a wilful ignoring of the plight of their fellow Londoners” as Chris Priestley so eloquently notes in Ignorance and Want: why Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is as relevant today as ever.

Guilty as charged. I have been complacent and ignorant of the suffering of many of my fellow Americans. I’ve been complaining about the “others” and the mess we are in. And, like Scrooge, it’s time I start listening, learning, and paying closer attention.


A new dictionary to explain all those hot-button words

By John Backman. Reprinted from The Huffington Post.

You’re talking with a few people about a controversial topic. A couple of them disagree with you, and they’re more than happy to explain why. Listening to them, you gradually notice that they keep using a certain word—and you have no idea what they mean.

You’re not alone in this. So often, the words we use to discuss current events take on nuances that don’t fit the dictionary definitions. In a debate over abortion, for instance, fetus and baby don’t just refer to the “party in utero”; they signal specific positions on the issue. The same is true of gay vs. homosexual, or radical Islam, or progressive as opposed to liberal, or big government

How can we talk with people when we don’t even understand their words?

That question has bedeviled an array of practitioners in the field of dialogue and deliberation. Several years ago, they decided to do something about it: create a dictionary of hot-button terms and explore how every side in a debate uses them.


Resist the divide

By Jeanene Louden. Reprinted from The Huffington Post.

The president elect is calling for American unity as a way forward. Those that did not support him are calling for unity as a way forward. What do we mean by “unity”? What will it take for us to actually be “one nation, under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”?

If the answer from the little voice inside your head started with the word “they”, there is hope. When you see yourself on a “side”, you can see what the other side needs to do to bridge the divide. Then, you just need to ask yourself two questions: first, would you recognize it if “they” made that change, and second, are you willing to do the same?

Before you answer, let’s take a walk down memory lane.