Check out our TED Talk about bridging divides

In November of 2017 at TEDWomen, our co-founder and CEO John Gable and Living Room Conversations co-founder Joan Blades gave a TED talk about how to free ourselves from filter bubbles. It reached over one million views in two months. Photo: Ryan Lash / TED

Discuss across divides to better understand each other and the issues so together we can build a more perfect union.

In an increasingly divided country, we often retreat to our separate corners and block out political “others.” This makes it hard to understand not only different political opinions but also the people behind them. Here you can break out of your filter bubble and listen, be heard, and converse with the other side in a respectful way.

If you are a teacher or student, start at to see special programs, tools and lesson plans to bring respectful conversations to your classroom. Our programs address media literacy, develop skills in collaborative problem solving and critical thinking, increase civic engagement, and provide social emotional learning.

How can you have a respectful, engaging conversation with someone with different opinions and beliefs? How can you participate in civil discourse or engage in responsible free speech? Follow these steps:

Step 1: Listen First to Understand

Civil discourse starts with listening. It is tempting to jump in to be sure that the other person knows what you think and feel, but when everyone is trying to be heard, no one is listening. It’s not possible to discuss across divides without listening first, and that starts with me. And when the other person sees that you are truly listening, they will start listening too. Take the pledge below and learn more about the Listen First Project .

"I WILL LISTEN FIRST TO UNDERSTAND and consider another's views before sharing my own. I will prioritize respect and understanding in conversation. And I will encourage others to do the same."

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Bonus Step: Explore Other Perspectives

This is often a great and sometimes necessary step to understanding other people. The same word can mean different things to different people. Controversial terms, from "abortion" to "Zionism", tend to shut down dialog because they mean different things to different people. Until we fully understand what a term means to someone else, we don't know the issue and can't effectively communicate with people different than us.

The AllSides Red Blue Dictionary helps anyone understand how others see important political terms so we can more easily understand each other.

Step 2: Pick a proven model for a respectful conversation

There are many ways to have a great conversation with someone else. Sometimes it doesn't seem that way because all we see on TV and online are the worst examples of dialogue. But in fact you have many options. So pick one that is best for you.

Mismatch Logo  Sign up, answer a few questions about yourself, and get matched with another person across the country for a guided conversation via a free video conferencing service.

LRC Logo

Living Room Conversations  Recruit a co-host who has a different opinion on a topic. Each of you invite two others. Then meet in a living room, church, school, community meeting place — you decide — for a guided, respectful conversation where you will discover differences, commonalities, and shared values.

Bridge Alliance

Bridge Alliance  There are many ways to participate in civil discourse, respectful free speech and bridge divides. The Bridge Alliance has over 80 member organizations devoted to bridging divides, and that includes many ways for having great conversations across divides.