Great Resource for Having Civil Conversations About Hard Topics

Civil ConversationsEvery now and then a resource comes along—one that’s so thoughtfully executed and packaged, so engaging to read, and so easy to follow—that you feel the tiniest pang of envy because you didn’t create it yourself. But you enthusiastically share it because you recognize the huge void for which it was intended to fill. And you love that its mission and goals dovetail beautifully with those of your own organization.

I felt this way when I recently discovered On Being’s Civil Conversations Project, which is a collection of audio, video, writings, and resources, all of which are intended to help us engage each other—at a local, personal level—on the difficult conversations and hard questions of our time. It’s intended to help us create new spaces for “listening, conversation, and engagement.”

The project’s starter guide for civil conversations frames this project so beautifully by posing five thought-provoking questions:

  • How do we speak the questions we don’t know how to ask each other?
  • Can we find ways to cross gulfs between us about politics and the meaning of community itself?
  • How do we engage neighbors who have become strangers?
  • Can we do that even while we continue to hold passionate disagreements on deep, contrasting convictions?
  • How is technology playing into all this, and how can we shape it to human purposes?

If you’re hungry for ways to rebuild strong community connections, I encourage you to explore the resources in this project. Explore the starter guide’s step-by-step way for planning everything from how to select the right gathering space, decide whom to invite, determine the best way to moderate the conversation, be mindful of everyone’s time, and even close the meeting.

Maybe you first need to listen to how others have personally approached this work. If so, there is a curated collection of 30 audio recordings taken from past episodes of On Being, a weekly public radio show that examines what it means to be human and how we want to live. A few favorite recommendations:

  • John Lewis—Love in Action
  • Layli Long Soldier—The Freedom of Real Apologies
  • Ruby Sales—Where Does It Hurt?
  • Sharon Salzberg and Robert Thurman—Meeting Our Enemies and Our Suffering
  • Vincent Harding—Is America Possible?
  • John Paul Lederach—The Art of Peace
  • Richard Mouw—Restoring Political Civility: An Evangelical View

With Grounding Virtues such as Words that Matter; Generous Listening; Adventurous Civility; Humility; Patience; and Hospitality, how can you not fall in love with this project?

We can do this. Together, we can have difficult, hard, and civil conversations. We just need to create the safe, supportive places for those civil conversations to take place.

That’s what we’re dedicated to doing for all children and youth at Operation Respect.

Because the words created to describe this project are so eloquent, I end with these

Our hope is that these conversations model an approach to civil dialogue that:

Creates space for a new quality of conversation and relationship;

Is grounded in lived virtues;

Calms fear;

Engages common life even in the absence of common ground;

Restores the social art of listening;

Models an adventurous civility;

Patiently calls forth the best in ourselves and others.

Happy reading, listening, planning, meeting, and engaging, my friends.

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