Have a Civil Thanksgiving!

Do you have one of those families that usually devolves into a heated argument over the dinner table? It’s enough to make you dread gathering for the holidays.

With our current political climate, it can be hard to carry on a cordial conversation anywhere, anytime! But there’s a growing group of people who feel it doesn’t have to be that way.

If you’re discouraged with how divided and quick to anger we are, I encourage you to explore this website: https://www.livingroomconversations.org. A Living Room Conversation (LRC) “is a conversational model developed by dialogue experts in order to facilitate a connection between people despite their differences, and even identify areas of common ground and shared understanding.”

Living Room Conversations can happen anywhere. Formally, the movement organizers are encouraging anyone interested in hosting a discussion to watch a video on how to lead a structured conversation. Then two hosts with different viewpoints each invite one or two others to have an arranged conversation on a specific topic. The website has a whole list of topic guides. But all the information is open source—any of us can do whatever works in our own situation.

LRC dialog experts have provided a model for how to stay civil, with everyone involved in the conversation agreeing to abide by the following principles:

  • Be curious, and listen to understand. Too often we listen just enough to decide how to respond. As we think about what we’re going to say, we miss a lot of what is being said! LRC reminds us, “Conversation is as much about listening as it is about talking. You might enjoy exploring how others’ experiences have shaped their values and perspectives.”
  • Show respect and suspend judgment. We tend to judge each other, don’t we? If we can set that aside, we can learn from each other, and everyone feels respected and appreciated. “Judge not lest ye be judged”—respect must be a two-way street!
  • Note any common ground as well as any differences. Once we start talking about things like values and motivations, we may find that we are more alike than we realize. But where we differ, we need to commit to taking an interest in different beliefs and opinions. How did this person arrive at their position? What is really important to them and why?
  • Be authentic and welcome that from others. A living room conversation needs to be a safe space. LRC encourages, “Share what’s important to you. Speak from your experience. Be considerate of others who are doing the same.” I think another excellent guideline is to ONLY speak from your own experience and opinions. It’s not as helpful to say “the _______ source says this,” or “a lot of people are saying that.”
  • Be purposeful and to the point. The guidelines for moderated Living Room Discussions recommend staying to a time limit, so it’s important to try to keep our comments concise and relevant to the topic. Also, it’s really important to allow everyone to take a turn speaking.
  • Own and guide the conversation. We each need to take responsibility for the quality of our participation and the conversation as a whole. We have to agree to keep ourselves on track. LRC says, “Use an agreed-upon signal like the “time out” sign if you feel the agreements are not being honored.

You can actually get cards with the guidelines printed on them to help everyone at the table stay on track. 

Even at a more informal setting, like friends and family gathered for Thanksgiving dinner,  if everyone can agree to the guidelines no matter what topic comes up, it can go a long way to ensuring civility.

If you’re interested in participating in a more formal way to encourage dialog across political (and other types of) divisions, Compassionate St. Augustine is leading the way here locally in training hosts and facilitating group discussions. By mid-November, the group hopes to have a sample LRC in a public forum so an audience can observe how it works. Then audience members can decide if they want to participate in future discussions and/or train to become leaders themselves.

You can find out more at their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/compassionstaugustine/ or website https://www.compassionstaugustine.org/index.html

Category : Blog &Personal Growth Posted on November 4, 2019

Leave a Reply