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How a Simple Conversation Can Help Reduce Societal Divisions

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Wednesday, June 9, 2021   

LOS ANGELES - More than 5,000 people already have signed up for an online event this Saturday called America Talks, designed to start healing the divisions in this country, one video chat at a time.

America Talks kicks off the fourth annual National Week of Conversation, in which people on all sides of the political spectrum discuss the issues of the day in a respectful manner.

Kristin Hansen, executive director of the Civic Health Project in Palo Alto and a co-organizer of Saturday's event, said this country needs to lower personal hostilities and break the government gridlock.

"It can feel difficult if not impossible to bridge the divide, and we can feel really tempted to give up or not even try," she said. "However, this puts America on a really precarious path, because we then increasingly fall into the trap of seeing each other as less than fully human."

You can sign up to be matched with a conversation partner online, at Americatalks.us. There, you'll also find links for dozens of other online forums on a variety of topics taking place all next week.

Hansen said research shows most people tend to present their best selves in one-on-one personal conversations. She urged people to listen with curiosity, speak from their own experience, and connect with respect.

"Refusing to engage with each other leads nowhere good," she said. "We know that a single conversation, even if multiplied by thousands of people, won't heal America. But it's a start."

She added that the National Week of Conversation is designed to facilitate interactions that are the antithesis of the insults and hatred often found on social media and in the online comment sections for news articles.


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