So, you’re hosting your first Living Room Conversation! We’ve assembled a few short videos and guides to answer common questions. We are always learning, so please let us know if you have a question that isn’t answered here.
Through Living Room Conversations, we are able to engage in a deeper and more meaningful conversation about who we are and what we care about. This in turn allows us to take actions where we have common ground.
We hope you take this chance to have a Living Room Conversation yourself, it’s a lot of fun!
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 tocare 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 a good idea to 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.
FAQ for Living Room Conversations
Why are Living Room Conversations are the way they are?
The rationale behind Living Room Conversations is to 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.
How do I find a cohost?
Cohosts are best when they have a different perspective from you. Think about your friends with whom you have respectful disagreements.
Who should I invite?
Think about people who are interested in having meaningful conversations about our world. The conversations are richest and most fun when there’s diversity of perspective. Think about many kinds of differences- age, gender, culture, politics and more. You may be surprised at the range of opinion on a particular topic in a group that seems homogeneous.
Do I have to provide food? Or beverages?
While you don’t need to provide food or beverages, having those available is a hospitable gesture that supports conversation. When we share snacks together, we tend to be more sociable. Having a potluck or meeting at a coffee shop can work.
Where can a Living Room Conversation happen?
Living Room Conversations can happen anywhere a small group of people groups can gather in a comfortable and relatively private space. You can even gather online using platforms like Zoom or Google Hangout.
Following these guidelines will ensure your conversation is a safe place for everyone involved to express their opinion — we can almost promise that you will have a productive, insightful conversation!
Be curious and open to learning.
Conversation is as much about listening as it is about talking. Listen and be open to hearing all points of view. Maintain an attitude of exploration and learning.
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 appreciate differences.
Look for a common ground you can agree on and appreciate the differences in the 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. Be cognizant of making the same point more than once.
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.
Are you curious about what makes a good conversation? Here is some light reading . . .
Ten reasons to spend time with your political opposite (Huffington Post)
It Isn’t Easy Being Civil, But Here Are Some Important Tips (Independent Voter Project)
Effective Communication: Barriers and strategies (University of Waterloo)
Twelve tips for handling difficult conversations (Amex Open Forum)
Conversation, Argument, and Civility (AmericanThinker.com)
How Diversity Makes us Smarter (Scientific American)
The Need for Dialogue (Beyond Intractability)