Connecting Across Divides.
Living Room Conversations are a conversational bridge across issues that divide and separate us. They provide an easy structure for engaging in friendly yet meaningful conversation with those with whom we may not agree. These conversations increase understanding, reveal common ground, and sometimes even allow us to discuss possible solutions. No fancy event or skilled facilitator is needed.
Living Room Conversations is a non-profit organization founded in 2010 as a result of a transpartisan partnership focused on revitalizing civil discourse through conversation.
Major disagreement on important issues is a fact of life, but it doesn’t have to create insurmountable divides. We hope for a world in which people who have fundamental differences of opinion and backgrounds learn to work together with respect – and even joy – to realize the vibrant future we all desire for ourselves and our families. Through applying and adapting our conversational model, we hope participants will build relationships that generate understanding and enable collaborative problem-solving.
Divides Aren't Inevitable.
Where is your living room?
Living rooms used to be the place where people would gather to socialize and relate with each other. Inviting someone into your home was to treat them as valued and worthy of respect. But before they were called living rooms these rooms were referred to as “parlors” – a term that comes from the French and means place for speaking.
Our modern world no longer limits our place for speaking to a physical location. We live our lives in our communities and online. Our living room is wherever we find ourselves connecting with others.
Living Room Conversations can take place anywhere, which these days includes the virtual world. Video chat allows us to bring each other into our homes, with all that represents, at a scale never before imagined.
Frequently Asked Questions
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 problems of our time.
Cohosts are best when they have a different perspective from you. Think about your friends with whom you have respectful disagreements.
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.
- Use the Living Room Conversations Facebook page and/or join our Facebook Organizer community and make a request for diverse conversation partners.
- Choose a topic where those you CAN gather differ (e.g. Status & Privilege, Relationships First, Future of Work).
- Recognize that we are all different and there is tremendous value in cultivating skills in listening and conversation.
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.
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.
Absolutely! Community meetings are happening in several places in the country. We’ve developed a guide based on our experience that can help you plan.
What’s most important is being in a space where you and the group feel safe to have a conversation that explores your values and opinions. It’s also important that your conversation be in a place where others are not disturbed. Someone’s home may be the best place. Sitting under a tree in a park or in a coffee shop may feel just right.
The only facilitator you need is a copy of the conversation guide and the ground rules for each person. Everyone in the group is responsible to own and guide the conversation. This said, with a video Living Room Conversation it is often helpful to have one of the hosts get things started and watch the time so that the conversation can end when agreed upon.
The materials are absolutely free! Living Room Conversations is an open source project. Please use, share and modify with attribution to www.LivingRoomConversations.org.
The conversation guides–more than 60 of them!–are found under topics on the website.
You can read the conversation agreements here!
The conversation agreements are six common sense ground rules for engaging in a respectful conversation that supports openness and curiosity rather than debate. They let people know what is expected of them and create a safe environment for a great conversation.
The conversation agreements are found under “resources” on the website and are available as the first page of the pdf conversation guides.
In late 2010, Joan Blades partnered with dialogue experts, Walt Roberts, Debilyn Molineaux, Amanda Kathryn Roman and Heather Tischbein, to create a structured, intimate conversation format that would empower everyday citizens to discuss important issues with friends of differing political affiliations and backgrounds. The theory was that if two friends with different points of view, each invited two friends to join a conversation, with full disclosure about the intent and structure of the conversation, they could create a safe space for a respectful and meaningful exchange of ideas, develop new relationships and perhaps find common ground. This was the Living Room Conversations pilot project.
By early 2011, the pilot revealed that the Living Room Conversations structure worked. Both the observed and independent conversations were successful. Participants found they were anxious at the outset but soon felt comfortable using the format. In fact, these early conversations fostered relationships that continue to this day.
Inspired by the success of the pilot, Amanda Kathryn Roman and Joan Blades formed a transpartisan political partnership, recruited an advisory board and launched the website to make the Living Room Conversations open-source format available to individuals and organizations around the country. Their hope was to empower participants to begin to reweave the fabric of our civil society by demonstrating that respectful conversation can enrich our lives and enable us to create better solutions to the challenges we face together.
Early participants had conversations about the role of government, money in politics, immigration, gay marriage and more. In 2013, our first high profile conversation, cohosted by Joan Blades and Mark Meckler (Tea Party Patriots), discussed crony capitalism and identified the need for criminal justice reform as an area of 100% agreement. common ground This led to further discussion and impactful collaborative action.
Living Room Conversations is constantly evolving. We have a growing list of champions who speak publicly about Living Room Conversations or use the format in their work, as well as a growing number of partners who are using our open-source format in large and small ways. We look forward to developing and sharing materials for more issue areas, and creating a cycle of online-to-offline community building as we learn from and support each other in becoming a more respectful, civil society.