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Reaching Out Across the Red-Blue Divide, One Person at a Time

The four-page conversation guide, Reaching Out Across the Red-Blue Divide, One Person at a Time (2009), was written by Maggie Herzig from Public Conversations Project. This useful guide provides a framework for navigating highly polarized conversations and includes several starter questions to help keep the dialogue open. Read the intro to the guide below and download the PDF, as well as, find the original guide on PCP’s blog here.

From the guide…PCP_red blue divide flag

What this guide offers
This guide offers a step-by-step approach to inviting one other person—someone whose perspectives differ from your own—into a conversation in which • you both agree to set aside the desire to persuade the other and instead focus on developing a better understanding of each other’s perspectives, and the hopes, fears and values that underlie those perspectives; • you both agree to pursue understanding and to avoid the pattern of attack and defend; • you both choose to address questions designed to open up new possibilities for moving beyond stale stereotypes and limiting assumptions.

Why bother to reach across the divide?
Many people have at least one important relationship that has been frayed by painful conversations about political differences or constrained due to fear of divisiveness. What alternatives are there? You can let media pundits and campaign strategists tell you that polarization is inevitable and hopeless. Or you can consider taking a collaborative journey with someone who is important to you, neither paralyzed with fear of the rough waters, nor unprepared for predictable strong currents. You and your conversational partner will be best prepared if you bring 1) shared hopes for the experience, 2) the intention to work as a team, and 3) a good map that has guided others on similar journeys. We hope this guide will help prepare you to speak about your passions and concerns in ways that can be heard, and to hear others’ concerns and passions with new empathy and understanding—even if you continue to disagree.

Are you ready?
Are you emotionally ready to resist the strong pull toward polarization? What’s at the heart of your desire to reach out to the person you have in mind? Is pursuing mutual understanding enough, or are you likely to feel satisfied only if you can persuade them to concede certain points? What do you know about yourself and the contexts in which you are able—or not so able—to listen without interrupting and to speak with care? Are you open to the possibility—and could you gracefully accept—that the other person might decline your invitation?

Are the conditions right?
Do you have a conversational partner in mind who you believe will make the same kind of effort you are prepared to make? Is there something about your relationship that will motivate both of you to approach the conversation with a positive spirit? Will you have a chance to propose a dialogue in ways that don’t rush or pressure the other person? Will you be able to invite him or her to thoughtfully consider not only the invitation but the specific ideas offered here— ideas that you might together modify? Can you find a time to talk that is private and free from distraction?

If you decide to go forward, take it one step at a time. 

To continue reading the guide, download it below or read it on Public Conversation Project’s site here.

PCP_logoAbout Public Conversations Project
PCP fosters constructive conversation where there is conflict driven by differences in identity, beliefs, and values. We work locally, nationally, and globally to provide dialogue facilitation, training, consultation, and coaching. We help groups reduce stereotyping and polarization while deepening trust and collaboration and strengthening communities. At the core of many of today’s most complex social problems is a breakdown in relationships that leads to mistrust, gridlock, and fractured communities. Public Conversations’ method addresses the heart of this breakdown: we work to shift relationships, building the communication skills and trust needed to make action possible and collaboration sustainable. Since our founding in 1989, Public Conversations’ practitioners have worked on a broad range of issues, including same-sex marriage, immigration, abortion, diversity, guns, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We have also contributed to peace-building efforts in several conflict-torn regions overseas. In situations where a breakdown in trust, relationships, and constructive communication is part of the problem, PCP offers a solution.

Follow on Twitter: @pconversations

Resource Link: Reaching Out Across the Red-Blue Divide, One Person at a Time

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