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Joan Blades: Talking Turkey With Family

This article is reposted from the Huffington Post site.  It was written by Joan Blades, the co-founder with Amanda Roman of Living Room Conversations, which I’m proud to serve as an Advisor for.  Joan is also well-known for co-founding Moveon.org and MomsRising.  See the Catalysts Awards proposal from Living Room Conversations here.

Last year, LivingRoomConversations.org was launched with the goal of “revitalizing the art of conversation among people with diverse views and to remind our fellow Americans of the power and beauty of civil discourse.” Living Room Conversations have been co-hosted by conservative/progressive host teams on energy, money in politics, the role of government, immigration and gay marriage.

The early responses to the conversations have been encouraging and even inspiring. “Participating in the Living Room Conversation brought me back my boyhood when my family sat around the dinner table debating the topics of the day from both liberal and conservative perspectives. The Conversation captured what I find to be missing from modern media and modern political narratives: a sense that what we share as Americans is far deeper and more important than what divides us, a sense that we still have a chance to reach across partisan divides to identify both the core of our disagreements and the kernel of realistic compromises.

“This year the media is asking us “How do families deal with their political differences over holiday dinners?”

My first response is: A family dinner party may not be the best place for a challenging conversation. Also, the simple guidelines for Living Room Conversations may not be sufficient for families. Many families have histories that are challenging. We all know family members that presume permission to break certain social restraints and social restraint is a core part of what Living Room Conversations rely on to ensure respectful engagement. Family members are the people you can “let your hair down” with, right?

That said, respectful listening, curiosity, suspending judgment, looking for common ground, speaking from the heart and the willingness to honor our right hold different opinions are excellent practices for family conversations too. Most important of all is remembering these are people you love. One man whose father and wife have strong opposing political views told me they that the what makes their discussions work is they always know first and foremost that they love each other.

You know better than anyone who in your family might appreciate and be open to a meaningful conversation that includes politics. Why not just look for common ground? The media spends more than enough time on our differences. And dont forget, post election there are many people who care deeply about our country grieving and worrying about what the future holds. Listening, caring and healing the divisions in our communities and families is a worthy goal. If you do decide to engage in a substantial conversation…or are roped in, remember that you arent likely to change someones mind but you just might open them up to seeing another point of view, have the pleasure of gaining a broader perspective for yourself and reaffirm the understanding that our core values are much more aligned than the media leaves us believing. And dont forget the love.

via Joan Blades: Talking Turkey With Family on the Huffington Post website

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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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