In case you haven’t heard this clichéd maxim: we live in divided times. Whether or not we are currently in the most divided era of history, I’m not really sure; I haven’t been around for many other historical periods.
Maybe the Internet has made us more divided; maybe America’s first amendment enabled it; maybe the information age has done it; or maybe modern society's availability of education for all classes is the culprit.
It might not be the worst thing in the world? Division means that people are diverse, and it's reassuring that a dissenting opinion doesn't get a person murdered like it has in past eras of human history. We have the freedom to live our lives by different values and hold different beliefs than our neighbors.
We have the freedom to believe differently, and division is a sign of that. But division isn’t the only outcome of that aspect of humanity. Differences give us opportunity to become more empathetic and more diverse in our own views.
That’s where Living Room Conversations can come in.
Living Room Conversations are a way to intentionally discuss topics that turn divisive quickly. The idea is to sit cozily together with people of differing opinions and talk honestly and from experience about controversial topics that are scary to a passive introvert (e.g., me). But more importantly, Living Room Conversations are an opportunity to listen to people who are speaking honestly and personally about a stance that you don’t agree with.
It sounds a little “kumbaya,” “everyone’s a winner” if you want to view it that way. But also, imagine how special and fruitful it would be to openly speak your mind and heart and listen to the other side with no fear of being attacked?
I (as long as everything goes as planned) will host three Living Room Conversations before the end of this schoolyear on various topics that are usually scary for me to sit down and have full conversations about with people who have different opinions.
My next three articles will be reflections on those conversations, whether a critique of or recommendation for the Living Room Conversation format, a new perspective on the topic that challenged mine, a way my belief has changed or some other valuable takeaway from the conversation.
If you find it hard to stay civil rather than heated or bold rather than anxious when it comes to discussing important topics, perhaps hosting a Living Room Conversation would be a useful experiment for you, too.