As the holidays approach, many of us will have the chance to sit down in person and speak with friends and family members who have deeply different political views. While some might avoid talking about politics for fear of negative consequences, such conversations can be remarkably good opportunities to strengthen relationships and create mutual understanding. Yet it is not always easy to have constructive conversations, particularly when strong emotions are involved.

To help, Public Conversations Project has developed a new one-page guide to one-on-one conversations. We encourage you to find some quiet time to connect with someone you care about, and to use PCP's guide to explore your hopes and concerns about what lies ahead for the U.S. and the world.

Start by asking yourself a few questions to help you prepare
What's at the heart of your desire to reach out to the person you have in mind? Do you hope for mutual understanding or will you feel satisfied only if you can persuade them to "concede" certain points? In what contexts are you able (or not so able) to listen without interrupting and to speak with care? Can you reach out in a way that doesn't rush or pressure the other person to agree to talk? Are you open to the possibility that your invitation might be turned down? If the person accepts, will you be happy with modest progress, or do you hope one conversation will "solve everything"?

Make the invitation with clarity about its purpose and with a spirit of genuine interest.

Example: I know we voted for different candidates, and I'm really interested in understanding what you see in X that won your support. Would you be willing to find some quiet time to share your thoughts and listen to mine - without trying to "convert" each other, simply to understand?

Set the stage
Agree to a time/space that is private and free from distraction. Ahead of time, let the person know the types of questions you hope to explore. (You could even give them a copy of this page!) Let them know that you plan to answer the same questions, so you both learn about and from each other without anyone being on the defensive.

Start by talking about how you can have a good conversation. Example: I'm glad we have the chance to talk. As we discussed, I hope this won't become a political "debate," so can we focus on our personal experiences and not speak for entire groups or political parties? Can we agree not to try to change each other's minds? Can we agree to avoid labels or language that might be insulting? Can we also take turns, without interrupting so we both can be heard? Would that work? What else should we consider before diving in?

Questions to consider
How this works: Agree to questions you both will answer, and decide who will speak first. Start with a short pause for reflection. One person listens without interrupting. Take a minute for reflection. Next trade roles, so the first person who spoke listens while the second person answers the same question. Try this with at least three questions. Then, in a more free-form way, start asking each other questions about what you've heard so far - not rhetorical questions - but questions that represent genuine curiosity about each other's experiences and perspectives.

Sample questions include:
1. Can you tell me something about your life experience that can help me understand your reasons for voting as you did?

2. What are your hopes and fears for the next four years? What is at the "heart of the matter" for you?

3. Do you have any mixed feelings, value conflicts or uncertainties about the candidate/issues you supported?

4. Have you ever felt stereotyped by people holding different political views? If so, how? Which of those stereotypes was most distressing to you? Most inaccurate? Why?

5. Given the challenges we face, what dreams do you have for yourself, your family, community, or country? What steps can you take toward making one dream real? How might others support you?

For more sample questions and additional resources, visit www.publicconversations.org

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