Relationships over Politics: Connecting with Friends and Family

Conversation Guide

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!

This Living Room Conversation flows through three rounds of questions and a closing. Some rounds ask you to answer each question. Others feature multiple questions that serve as conversation starters — you need only respond to the one or two you find most interesting.

Before You Begin...

Please go over the Conversation Agreements with your participants.

Introductions: Getting Started/
Why Are We Here?

What interested you or drew you to this conversation?

Round 1: Core Values

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?

Remember that the goal for this Living Room Conversation is for all of us to listen and learn about where we have different opinions and where we have shared interests, intentions and goals. Answer ​one or more of the following questions:
  • 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: Reflection & Next Steps

Answer ​one or more​ 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?

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Thank You!

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