Conversations about divisive issues can be emotional, pick-a-side-and-fight-it-out discussions that often leave us feeling worse about the people we disagree with. And sometimes even worse about ourselves. But there is a way to talk that feels open, honest, and impartial, where you can actually be heard and learn about the people with whom you disagree―Respectful Conversations, which are designed not to change minds, but to soften hearts.
Congregations and other groups throughout Minnesota have chosen to be sources of living water, cooling the heat of intense disagreements through the Respectful Conversations Project. Since 2012, more than 2,000 Minnesotans have participated in over 80 Respectful Conversations on a variety of divisive topics, including:
- The amendment defining marriage
- Guns in Minnesota
- Differences between urban and rural government leaders
- Racial implications of religious art
- Religious/non-religious dialogue
- Muslims and Christians on global security
- Jews and Protestants on Israel/Palestine
- Divisive internal organizational issues
Our results speak for themselves: On average, 70% of participants report:
"I have a stronger sense of empathy for those whose viewpoint is different from my own." Over 95% agree that they felt listened to, that we succeeded in providing a conversation different than a polarizing debate, and that the process would be useful in other settings.
These conversations also pay off in lasting dividends. Months later, people report a greater awareness of their own listening attitudes, more curiosity about those they would previously have considered opponents, and even transformed family relationships.
Experience this for yourself. Find out how people in your community can talk about their differences in a way that stitches us together rather than tearing us apart.
- If you would like to participate in a Respectful Conversation or hold a conversation for your own community, register here.
- If you're interested in becoming a table facilitator, find out more here.
- If you're a congregation or another organization interested in hosting a conversation, contact Senior Program Manager Jerad Morey, 612- 230-3211.
We also are regularly in partnership with current or new host congregations in regard to designing custom conversations tailored for topics of local relevance. To have a discussion about this option, contact Senior Program Manager Jerad Morey, 612- 230-3211.
We hope to have a Respectful Conversation with you soon.