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Communicating with Care

Conversation Guide

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We may want to communicate with others in such a way that we gain knowledge and bridge divides, but those conversations don’t always come naturally. Most of us struggle to self-evaluate our communication skills and we might be unaware of words and actions that shut down healthy dialogue when discussing divisive issues. In this conversation we will actively share and explore what works and what doesn’t, and we will reflect on ways that we can improve our interactions with others.

Background Information:

One of our dedicated and deeply appreciated volunteer hosts, Kathy Mitchell, created a list of some of the best and worst communication practices from this conversation. 

Let's Get Started!

Living Room Conversations offers a simple, sociable and structured way to practice communicating across differences while building understanding and relationships. Typically, 4-7 people meet in person or by video call for about 90 minutes to listen to and be heard by others on one of our nearly 100 topics. Rather than debating or convincing others, we take turns talking to share and learn. No preparation is required, though background links with balanced views are available on some topic pages online. Anyone can host using these italicized instructions. Hosts also participate. Some hosts may offer a Q & A after Closing.

Introductions:
Why We're Here (~10 min)

Each participant has 1 minute to introduce themselves.

Share your name, where you live, what drew you here, and if this is your first conversation.

Conversation Agreements:
How We'll Engage (~5 min)

These will set the tone of our conversation; participants may volunteer to take turns reading them aloud. (Click here for the full conversation agreements.)

  • Be curious and listen to understand.
  • Show respect and suspend judgment. 
  • Note any common ground as well as any differences. 
  • Be authentic and welcome that from others. 
  • Be purposeful and to the point. 
  • Own and guide the conversation. 

Question Rounds:
What We’ll Talk About

Optional: a participant can keep track of time and gently let people know when their time has elapsed.

Round 1:
Getting to Know Each Other (~10 min)

Each participant can take 1-2 minutes to answer one of these questions:

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 inspires you?
  • What are your hopes and concerns for your community and/or the country?

Round 2:

Communicating with Care (~40 min)

One participant can volunteer to read the paragraph at the top of the web page.

Take ~2 minutes each to answer a question below without interruption or crosstalk. The group may choose to have everyone answer: A) whichever question speaks to them individually or B) the same question with an option to pass. Once everyone has answered, the group may take a few minutes for any clarifying or follow up questions/responses. Continue exploring with other topic or related questions as time allows.

  • What concerns, if any, do you have about engaging in–what are typically considered–difficult conversations (i.e. race, politics, religion, etc.)?
  • In your experience, what words or actions have ​you or others used​ that:
    • made you feel heard and/or bridged a divide?
    • made you feel dismissed and/or shut down communication?
  • How much grace (or courteous goodwill) are you willing to extend in communicating with others?

Round 3:
Reflecting on the Conversation (~15 min)

Take 2 minutes to answer one of the following questions:

  • What new understanding(s) about healthy communications have you gained through this discussion?
  • What new communication insight will you practice applying in your life, and how do you envision doing so?

Closing (~5 min)

  • Give us feedback! Find our feedback form here.
  • Donate! Make more of these possible; give here.
  • Join or host more conversations! With a) this group by exchanging your emails; b) others in person and/or by video call online. Get more involved or learn how to host here.

Thank You!

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