Here is a Conversation Guide about democracy, extremism and outliers from Living Room Conversations. They use guided conversations to build understanding and transform communities.
1. Introductions: Why We’re Here (~10 minutes)
Each participant has 1 minute to introduce themselves.
- Share your name, where you live, what drew you here, and if this is your first conversation.
2. Conversation Agreements: How We’ll Engage (~5 minutes)
These will set the tone of our conversation; participants may volunteer to take turns reading them aloud.
- Be curious and listen to understand. 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. People tend to judge one another. Setting judgement aside opens you up to learning from others and makes them feel respected and appreciated. Try to truly listen, without interruption or crosstalk.
- Note any common ground as well as any differences. Look for areas of agreement or shared values that may arise and take an interest in the differing beliefs and opinions of others.
- Be authentic and welcome that from others. Share what’s important to you. Speak from your experience. Be considerate of others who are doing the same. ● Be purposeful and to the point. Do your best to keep your comments concise and relevant to the question you are answering. Be conscious of sharing airtime with other participants.
- Own and guide the conversation. Take responsibility for the quality of your participation and the conversation as a whole. Be proactive in getting yourself and others back on track if needed. Use an agreed upon signal like the “time out” sign if you feel the agreements are not being honored.
3. Question Rounds
What We’ll Talk About Optional: a participant can keep track of time and gently let people know when their time has elapsed.
Getting to Know Each Other (~10 min)
Each participant can take 1-2 minutes to answer one of these questions:
- What are your hopes and concerns for your family, community and/or the country?
- What would your best friend say about who you are?
- What sense of purpose / mission / duty guides you in your life?
Exploring the Topic — Democracy, Extremism, and Outliers (~40 min)
One participant can volunteer to read this paragraph.
Under democratic governance structures, people enjoy freedom to believe as they choose, speak freely and advocate for their beliefs. Individuals like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton led the movement giving women the right to vote, and were seen as “extremist.” Another “extremist,” Frederick Douglas corresponded with and influenced the U.S. President on matters of racial equality. Still other “extremists” brought us witch trials, McCarthyism and the Holocaust. Given the societal impulse to label anyone outside of the mainstream “extreme,” how can we better distinguish and then support outliers who are advancing worthy causes?
Take ~2 minutes each to answer a question below without interruption or crosstalk.
After everyone has answered, the group may take a few minutes for clarifying or follow up questions/responses. Continue exploring additional questions as time allows.
- Who would you say are the individuals and groups that are outliers today? What do you think of their ideas?
- How do you decide what is extreme, or so outside the norm, that it’s “crazy” or “dangerous” to society?
- What beliefs do you have that others consider “extreme”?
- What positive or negative things have you experienced or observed in outlier groups?
Round Three: Reflecting on the Conversation (~15 min)
Take 2 minutes to answer one of the following questions:
- What was most meaningful / valuable to you in this Living Room Conversation?
- What learning, new understanding or common ground was found on the topic?
- How has this conversation changed your perception of anyone in this group, including yourself?
- Is there a next step you would like to take based upon the conversation you just had?
Closing (~5 min)
- Give us feedback! Use livingroomconversations.org/feedback-form/ or QR code
- Donate! Make more of these possible; give at livingroomconversations.org/donate
- Join or host more conversations! With a) this group by exchanging your emails; b) others in person and/or by video call online. Get more involved or learn how to host at livingroomconversations.org/get-involved/
About Living Room Conversations
Living Room Conversations are a simple way to connect across divides – politics, age, gender, race, nationality, and more.
Living Room Conversations offers a simple, sociable and structured way to practice communicating across differences while building understanding and relationships. Typically, 4-6 people meet in person or by video call for about 90 minutes to listen to and be heard by others on one of our nearly 100 topics. Rather than debating or convincing others, we take turns talking to share, learn, and be curious. No preparation is required, though background links with balanced views are available on some topic pages online.
Living Room Conversations is an open source project. Please use, share and modify with attribution to Living Room Conversations.
More Conversation Topic Guides
Here is a selection below:
- Women, Leadership, & Power
- Mental Health
- Climate Change
- Cancel Culture: Free Speech & Accountability
- Social Identity
- Persuasive Conversation Campaigns Guide
- Deep Canvassing to Shift Hearts, Mind and Votes
- How Powerful Conversations Won Abortion Rights in Ireland
- Framing Issues for Social Justice Impact: Directory of Messaging Guides