Relationships over Politics: Connecting with Friends and Family

Conversation Guide

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Woman setting a holiday table

Is it possible to use Living Room Conversations with our families and close friends? It is ultimately challenging, because family are more likely to break ‘host and guest’ social norms. The emotional stakes are higher, conversations are colored by long, deeply personal histories and it can feel easier to ‘take the gloves off’ and fight dirty, unconstrained by the politeness usually offered acquaintances. How might we hold the tension of our differences while working to repair connection and not further deepen division within our circle of family and friends?

All sorts of people tell us they want to use the skills they practice in Living Room Conversations to help restore connection with friends and family.  So, let’s use a Living Room Conversation to talk about just that!  This Living Room Conversation will help us listen and learn about where we have different opinions, along with shared ideas about how to best navigate time with family & friends (who may not share our view of the world).

Background Information:

You might find this set of tips helpful for yourself and others. Share it widely, especially at the holidays! 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.

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:

What is possible in friend and family relationships when differing politics cause conflict? (~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 are your early memories of talking politics with family or friends? What things went well?  Was there anything difficult?
  • What assumptions do you think those close to you may be making about your political identity?
  • What assumptions do you make about friends’/family political identities?
  • What do you wish or hope could happen in conversations with your family and friends about meaningful differences between you?  Are there any past successes that you might build upon?
  • How could you prepare yourself to listen with genuine curiosity to your family and friends?   
  • When does love supersede politics (and when does it perhaps not)?

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

Take 2 minutes to answer one of the following questions:

  • In one sentence, share what was most meaningful or valuable to you in the experience of this Living Room Conversation?
  • What new understanding or common ground did you find within this topic?
  • Has this conversation changed your perception of anyone in this group, including yourself?
  • Name one important thing that was accomplished here.
  • Is there a next step you would like to take based upon the conversation you just had?

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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