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Bridging the Red-Blue Divide Through Better Conversations

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Tuesday, April 2, 2019   

GREELEY, Colo. — Three-in-4 Americans believe that the growing tendency to distrust, dislike, even despise those who see the world differently has reached a crisis level, a situation described by some as a "soft civil war." That's according to organizers of the National Week of Conversation, an effort to bring people of all political stripes together to talk it out.

The group Better Angels is hosting a workshop Saturday in Greeley designed to give people skills to maintain important relationships - with friends, family members, co-workers - even when you disagree. Denice Davis is the group's regional coordinator.

"We make it clear that the goal of effective conversation is not to change people's minds, but rather to understand other positions better and to identify common ground,” Davis said.

She said one tip is to listen closely enough to another person's point of view to be able to accurately paraphrase their position. Davis said too often the focus is on thinking of a good counter argument to win a debate. Another key skill is to ask how a person came to hold their beliefs, which she said can humanize people we view as opponents and break down stereotypes.

Davis said disagreement isn't always a bad thing, and healthy debate frequently produces the best ideas for resolving problems. She said another key is rooting out the core values behind people's positions. And she said most people who attend these workshops, from all sides of the political divide, are surprised to discover that they share many common goals, including good education, safe communities and good health care.

"It may not be that we will agree on the different policies that will get us there. But we will be able to start those essential conversations where we're comparing thoughts and ideas and ultimately solving problems,” she said.

To find a conversation near you, visit nationalweekofconversation.org. And to become a trained moderator or workshop organizer, visit better-angels.org.


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