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  • Rick Bonetti

Finding Common Ground

Conversations about global warming and climate change have become polarized, but most people, regardless of political views, share common values of caring for others and the environment. Finding common ground requires more intentional, mutual efforts than just expressing talking points - it requires curiosity, mutual respect, and active listening. A proven structured format from Living Room Conversations helps build connections in our communities.

During the pandemic in 2021 I participated in a rewarding "Living Room Conversation" on Zoom with people who lived in California I had not met in person. We shared views on climate change, had a friendly exchange and I learned some things about communication. I recommend the process if participants are curious and open. Minds were not changed, but the experience was positive.

Living Room Conversations involves a small group of people (ideally six) who "come together to get to know one another in a more meaningful way. Guided by a simple and sociable format, participants practice being open and curious about all perspectives, with a focus on learning from one another, rather than trying to debate the topic at hand."

The process starts with establishing a conversation agreement, which may be referred to if discussions start to get out of hand. The first of three phases is about communicating core values - positive impressions that others have about you and what is important to you. After rapport is established, the topic at hand is discussed in round two with reflections and follow-up expressed in round three.

"LivingRoom Conversations has a wide variety of resources to help you start, grow, and continue to bridge divides and increase understanding in our own lives." You may take a course, watch a conversation video, or select questions for dozens of topics. You can connect with others virtually in a Learning Community where you can share successes and explore how to better utilize their resources.

Hosting a Living Room Conversation yourself doesn't require any special skills or certification. A host toolkit will walk you through the process of hosting a Living Room Conversation.

Joan Blades co-founded Living Room Conversations in 2011 with Amanda Kathryn Roman-Hydro. They partnered with communication experts to create a "structured, intimate conversation format that would empower everyday citizens to discuss important issues with friends of differing political affiliations and backgrounds... Early participants had conversations about the role of government, money in politics, immigration, gay marriage, and more." Living Room Conversations is a program of Mediators Foundation, a 501-C-3 tax-exempt organization in Boulder, CO.


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