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what conversation can we help you create?  

The concept may be called Living Room Conversations, but our conversation guides can be used in a variety of settings: any place from break rooms to classrooms to large conferences. For instance, your organization might want to reach beyond its “true believers” and develop relationships with potential allies. Or teachers may need conversation guides around a curriculum topic. The LRC conversation guides are open-source and adaptable to a plethora of uses.

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Whatever your needs, Living Room Conversations has a team of partners ready to consult with you to create a custom guide for the conversation you want to have. 

what makes a living room conversation?

  • the ground rules;
  • structured conversation guide;
  • intentional inclusion of multiple perspectives;
  • the self-facilitated nature of the small group format.

tips for a great conversation

  • reaching out to diverse groups to present their viewpoints will make for a richer conversation;
  • a five-round conversation can be condensed to three rounds by combining rounds 1 and 2 then 4 and 5;
  • if including elected officials, ask them to participate with a small group and listen. Discourage their presentation to the entire group;
  • we are here (at just the click of an email) to help you build your custom Living Room Conversation.

 

success stories

 

conferences

Not all Living Room Conversations happen in a living room. Our Living Room Conversation guides are also used in conference settings. Participants tell us that the Living Room Conversations model allowed them to learn from other participants and increase a sense of community. Our guides help increase people’s skills in productive conversations, including suspending judgment and deep listening. The participant conversations are enriched when there is intentional diversity in each small group. Call us for a consultation. The guide linked allowed the small groups to self-select one of five topics.

 

campus and course conversations: college oriented

We worked with president Debra Rowe, of the U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development, to create a conversation guide that could be included in college curricula. The goals of this conversation are to improve communications skills (especially listening) with students, connect them with an issue (energy in this case), and take action with their local community and elected officials. This collaboration is an example of how easy it is to adapt Living Room Conversations to support other important work.

 

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relationships first: middle and high school curricula

 

Relationships First prepares students to participate thoughtfully in democracy and in life. We are creating a world of well-informed citizens who respect one another and think critically in order to arrive at good decisions for themselves and for society. This partnership was inspired by a Living Room Conversation on youth voting, also featured in the Huffington Post. The young voters and nonvoters all agreed that the value of voting is questionable and they felt ill prepared by their education to vote. We adapted the standard Relationship First materials to fit classroom needs and added a teacher’s guide.

faith community

In spring 2016, the Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real requested a Living Room Conversations for church leaders. They participated in two conversations during the day and were then invited to use Living Room Conversations with their congregations. Since that time congregations in the diocese have used Living Room Conversations for a range of conversations. Additionally, we know that communities around the country are looking for pathways to “love their neighbor”. Tallahassee, Kansas City and Salt Lake City have all had community events that included Living Room Conversations adaptations where healing the political divide was a warmly received theme. Particularly we learned that participating in this conversation taught participants a new way of multitasking — learning to love our neighbor and disagree, all at the same time.

 

community energy conversations

These guides were created to expand the course and campus conversations into the surrounding community. Community Energy Conversations creates an engaging and worthwhile activity for any community organization or set of interested individuals to bring community members together and encourage action for positive change. This model has already been used successfully in higher education and local community settings.

 

sedona project

Paul Friedman, a facilitator in Sedona, AZ, heard about Living Room Conversations and decided it was a good tool to help improve the quality of conversations in Sedona. And, maybe, he could gain a world-record for the most conversations in a single month. He gave himself all of 2014 to accomplish his goal. Paul met with his community group, asked what they wanted and began to meet their needs. These included sample Living Room Conversations in a public setting, some light facilitation training and the creation of an organizer's guide. Paul also created a video record of before and after stories from the participants. Sedona’s world record stood until 2016.

 

contra costa community mental health

In 2013 the Contra Costa County Community Living Room Conversation Partners adapted Living Room Conversations as a way to enable health services consumers, providers and the families of consumers to hear about each other's lived and professional experiences with the goal of building trust and improving services. The Living Room Conversation provided a simple means to support people willing to actively reach out and connect across all Contra Costa County public health divisions/silos to create new health care partnerships. The first Living Room Conversation in Contra Costa occurred March 27, 2013 in Concord, followed by a second on September 18 in Richmond. Many providers, clients and family members who participated demonstrated their enthusiasm during the event.

rationale

Why are Living Room Conversations structured the way they are?

 

Living Room Conversations increase understanding, reveal common ground and allow us to discuss possible solutions. No fancy event or skilled facilitator is typically needed. When people of all walks of life begin to care about one another, they can begin working together to solve the wicked problems of our time. 

 

  • Why is it important to follow Living Room Conversation’s structure and process?

    • It helps us practice the lost art of deep listening!

    • The structure helps us set up and keep agreements with each other to do things in a way that is clearly stated - from the ground rules to the rounds of questions.

    • The process keeps participants’ attention on the quality of the conversation and not on wondering “what will happen next?”

    • Our conversation guides are specifically designed to maximize your experience -  the rounds of conversation build on each other to increase the depth of the conversation quickly.

 

  • Why have ground rules?

    • To help us engage in a respectful conversation that supports openness and curiosity rather than debate.

    • Ground rules let us know what is expected of us and help create a safe environment for a great conversation.

    • It is always consider if the co-host and guests you want to invite will be good at honoring the ground rules.  If you doubt their ability to do this then they are likely not the right people to invite. The good news is the role of host and guest are powerful and most people are thoughtful and capable of being part of a great conversation.  

 

  • Why the 5 rounds of conversation?

    • Round 1 is for introductions. It’s an icebreaker to share how we came to be in this conversation.

    • Round 2 helps us learn about each others’ values and perhaps find something in common before jumping into the topic round.

    • Round 3 is the topic round. Here, Living Room Conversations provides questions that draw out our personal stories and helps each of us see where our beliefs may have developed.  We encourage spending more time on round 3 than the other rounds.

    • Round 4 allows us to pause briefly to reflect on what we may have just learned and what we appreciate about the conversation so far.

    • Round 5 helps us identify if there is common ground and declare any action we might want to take as a result of this conversation.

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planning a conversation

Planning a Community Living Room Conversation

Living Room Conversations (LRC) Guides are easy-to-use, self-contained and facilitator-free. All you really need are copies of the conversation guide for each person and a place for people to gather. Even so, when we’re beginning a new journey, it’s sometimes helpful to have a map created by those who have made the trip. The steps below are suggestions that may be helpful. We’d love to hear what works best for you.

There are two models for getting started in a community: a small group of 4-7 people or a conference-style approach that gathers a larger number of people for multiple simultaneous conversations at table, in sitting room areas, or online in a video chat.

The conference-style approach offers an opportunity to introduce a larger number of people to the LRC practice. It requires a bit more preparation than the small group model but can give a jumpstart to a shift in the way people in a community relate to each other. This approach can be an ongoing way to support conversations in the community. It can also encourage people to invite folks into their homes for a small group.

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Relationships first- middle school & high school

talking about ... relationships first- middle school & high school

 

AllSides for Schools — a heart mind initiative -- is a partnership between AllSides and Living Room Conversations.  This offering to middle school and high school educators is a coupling of the Living Room Conversations relationship awareness with AllSides critical thinking has is already used by educators in 42 states.

How we treat each other is the difference between a great place to live and a bad place to live. We shape our world through relationships. Most people agree we want communities where all people have dignity and respect. Yet respectful interactions are often not what we see modeled in the media and in politics. And far too many people feel disrespected in their lives. What is our role in these dynamics? This Living Room Conversation is designed to create a space to talk about our experiences and shared aspirations. This is an adaptation that includes three rounds of questions instead of five

Click here if you would like a pdf of the following topic material to share with your cohost and friends.

. . . .

Background reading (optional)

While you don't need to be an expert on this topic, sometimes people want background information. Our partner, AllSides, has prepared a variety of articles reflecting multiple sides of this topic. 

Heart and Head: Relationships Matter: Human dynamics that affect the way we look at the world

. . . .

Want to listen to an actual Living Room Conversation?

Check out our listings on LRC Radio.

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custom conversation

create your own Conversation Club

The LRC Conversation Club lets you plan your own conversation, much like a monthly book club. Each month, we recommend a topic of current interest and encourage people to gather and talk with each other on that topic. Think of it like a book club, only no reading is required! There are several ways to host.
  • in person in your home
  • teleconference
  • video conference

There are many ways to have a Conversation Club. The idea is to get us talking with each other, learning more about diverse viewpoints and having a great time in the process. No matter how you host your Conversation Club, we promise you will enjoy yourself.

Download this month's topic

Eavesdrop on an actual conversation on a different hot topic each month!

Experience real conversations where different points of view are presented in ways that foster relationships, unearth common ground and improve understanding between participants.

Listen to a Conversation Club podcast on current or past topics on LRC radio.

Watch
  • excerpts from a Conversation Club that happened in Utah right after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. We have both a short peek and a long look at Mormons and gay marriage;
  • Google Hangout of a Conversation Club discussion on the topic of What is freedom?

Living Room Conversations/Village Square hybrid

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We enjoy working with other organizations doing great work promoting connections across differences.  Our partner Jacob Hess introduced Village Square forums to communities in Utah.  We soon realized that the two practices were wonderfully complementary.  

Living Room Conversations are intimate six person conversations co-hosted by friends​ with different views that create space for people to talk about significant topics and truly listen to each other.  They build relationships, often reveal unrealized common ground and also clarify differences.  They are a powerful way to begin the work of reconnecting communities, healing relationships and setting the stage for collaborative problem solving.

The Village Square is a public forum where citizens gather to hear about a topic from a panel of experts with different viewpoints while enjoying a meal.  Everyone on the panel has committed to civil engagement - with a particular aim of modeling thoughtful conversation for those who gather at the event. 

The Living Room Conversations/Village Square hybrid takes the virtues of both practices and has them enhance the experience of each. The first ​full ​Living Room Conversations/Village Square hybrid was conducted in Utah on the topic of immigration. If this sounds like an idea you'd like to try, here are the basic steps:  ​

Step 1 -  A Living Room Conversation involving folks that would be on the Village Square panel is ​held allowing panelists to hear a variety of concerns and opportunities surrounding the topic - as well as deepening their own relationships before the larger event​.

Step 2-  A Village Square event is held for 100-200 attendees.  Ideally, tables are small enough that a limited number of people can sit at a table. This way,​ attendees are able to go through rounds 1 and 2 of the Living Room Conversation prior to the panel speaking (​Living Room Conversation rounds of the particular conversation are provided at each table.)  The diverse set of ​panelists then speak sixty minutes using standard Village Square protocol of civility (including 'civility bells'). The conversation returns to the table where attendees are​ able to share their response in round 4 of the Living Room Conversations and then close.

Step 3- Everyone is encouraged to co-host their own Living Room Conversation when they return home.  

​Ideally, emails of the participants​ will be captured for all attendees so that organizers can follow up and support ongoing Living Room Conversations. The advantage of blending Living Room Conversations and Village Square was particularly evident at the recent immigration event.  Combining active engagement from fellow attendees with listening to the 

video conversations

How to have a Video Living Room Conversation

The beauty of video is that you can have a Living Room Conversation with someone across the street and someone across the country at the same time.

Have you always wanted to talk to Aunt Rose about her feelings on The American ͐͐Dream? Or maybe talk to your old college roommate about some other hot topic? Imagine both of you getting a couple of friends together for a video Living Room Conversation - what fun!

Currently we use Zoom technology to bring 4-6 people together for a conversation. Remember the Brady Bunch? Well it looks something like that (without “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha” ruining everything for Jan and everybody else!). 

You’ll need a webcam and a computer, tablet, or smartphone and about 90 - 120 minutes. Have your topic materials close at hand either on another open tab on your computer or device, or printed out for your reference.

 

 

 

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planning a conversation

Living Room Conversations (LRC) Guides are easy-to-use, self-contained and facilitator-free. All you really need are copies of the conversation guide for each person and a place for people to gather. Even so, when we’re beginning a new journey, it’s sometimes helpful to have a map created by those who have made the trip. The steps below are suggestions that may be helpful. We’d love to hear what works best for you.

There are two models for getting started in a community: a small group of 4-7 people or a conference-style approach that gathers a larger number of people for multiple simultaneous conversations at table, in sitting room areas, or online in a video chat.

The conference-style approach offers an opportunity to introduce a larger number of people to the LRC practice. It requires a bit more preparation than the small group model but can give a jumpstart to a shift in the way people in a community relate to each other. This approach can be an ongoing way to support conversations in the community. It can also encourage people to invite folks into their homes for a small group.

continued