Tackling the Tough Conversations

By Gloria Sandvik

How do we bridge the divide? How do we have conversations that might be both difficult and meaningful?

To explore these questions, humankind San Diego collaborated with the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego to facilitate Living Room Conversations. The experimental conversations focused on politics and the faith community, and the conversations  were both robust and thought-provoking.

Living room conversations are unique in that they are structured with four or five rounds of questions.

Representatives from humankind shared principles at the beginning that encouraged people to speak from their experience rather than their opinion. This usually points to the reasons, assumptions and beliefs that underlie the opinions of people and begin to promote understanding. Another principle is to listen with full presence and inquiry and to appreciate oneself and others.

To ensure safety and ease, tips encourage one person to speak at a time with no interruptions. This chance for each person to speak uninterrupted without questions or comments from others at the table makes for a truly remarkable listening practice on the part of each participant, as well as, a sense of being valued by the speaker.

The questions explored the hopes  and concerns for the country, the community, and the key values each person holds dear. One question explored a time when a difficult topic was discussed with someone and it went well. People shared what they did or said to make that conversation successful. Finally, people shared what they had learned or experienced.

The feedback was excellent and ranged from the comments on the beauty of each person having their thoughts heard to the generative way in which the conversation evolved and ended.

Humankind loves to support community groups to have more and deeper conversations. Humankind can assist in the selection of topics, crafting questions that can be tailored for effectiveness, the facilitation of conversations, and the training of table hosts for each conversation. Topics that might interest your group include: gun responsibility, migration, what kind of America do we want, mental health and the intersection of faith and politics. You can find a range of topics that might be of interest.

Contact humankind to continue the conversations: info@humankindsandiego.org