Center for Building a Culture of Empathy

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REC > Restorative Empathy Circles with Democrats and Republicans

Let's bring the different political parties and political movements together.




Restorative Empathy Circle 1 with Democrats and Republicans

This was our first Circle with Democrats and Republicans.





We would like to bring two Democrats and two Republicans together via a video recorded group Skype or Google Hangouts call to have a deeper discussion about each person's underlying values and how they relate to empathy. We will dialog to find common ground and transcend the partisan divide. The circle will be video recorded and be placed on Youtube.

Foster, restore and deepen empathic connection and understanding between all participants. All participants will be fully heard.


The circle will last about 1 hr 30 min.


Circle Process, Questions and Dialog

Introduction: Facilitator introductions to the discussion.

Question 1: How are you right now?
Modeling reflective listening.  We will use reflective listening in the discussion. In this process, as one person shares their story, comments, ideas, etc, someone from the other (political) side will reflect back to the speaker what they are hearing until the speaker feels fully heard and understood. Then the other side will do the same. This continues in a back and forth fashion.

To demonstrate the process, to begin with, the facilitator will ask, How are you right now?
Each participant can share how they are doing at the moment and the facilitator will reflect back what they are hearing to model reflective listening.

Question 2: What is your most important value and what is the story of how that value became important to you?


Question 3:  What is the relationship of your value to empathy?


Question 4: What ideas do you have about how to work together across party lines to create more empathic dialog, connection, understanding?




About Reflective Listening

  • Part of the Empathy Circle process is Reflective Listening. In this process, as one person shares their story, comments, ideas, etc, someone from the other side will reflect back to the speaker what they are hearing, until the speaker feels fully heard and comprehended. 

  • When the speaker feels fully heard about what they have to say, at that point the person from the other side speaks and someone from the other side reflects back what they heard?  etc.

  • The speaker is in a sense "teaching" the listener to hear them more deeply and accurately.

  • Reflecting back does not mean you agree with the speaker, but merely reflecting the meaning of what you hear them say.

  • The process slows down the conversations and helps create a more empathic connection and understanding.






Skype Video looks like this.   Google Hangouts Video looks like this.







More Resources

Joan Blades and the Living Room Conversations
Here are some highlights of Statement by Jackie Salit President of
“What is most striking to me in the Living Room Conversations hosted by activists in our network is that they weren’t about coming to an agreement on an issue.  They were built around a positive process in which having differences was not a problem and through which people not only learned new things, they learned in new ways.  It was an experience of political culture change, created by the people in the room."

NCDD Presentation in Seattle 
Amanda and I have been invited to discuss Living Room Conversations at the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) conference in Seattle in October.  The NCDD promotes the use of dialogue, deliberation, and other innovative group processes to help people come together across differences to tackle our most challenging problems. We serve as a gathering place, a resource clearinghouse, a news source, and a facilitative leader for the dialogue and deliberation community and beyond.

Climate Reality Conference /Climate
I gave a presentation on Living Room Conversations at Al Gore’s Climate Reality Training which took place in San Francisco on August 21 – 23.  There were over 1000 people attending from around the world, of which 640 N American participants. The response was enthusiastic!  These are deeply committed potential co-hosts.  Anne Devero and I (see note below about Anne) distributed information on Living Room Conversations to all participants and look forward to launching many conversations on Energy this year and next.  The Climate Reality team is excited about exploring the potential of Living Room Conversations around energy and climate issues and we are too!   

Mike Brune of the Sierra Club just highlighted Living Room Conversations in a recent blog  We are talking to the Sierra Club about Living Room Conversations focused on coal.

New Hampshire Listens Partnership 
Beginning in September we will be working with trained New Hampshire Listens leaders.  The goal is to bring civility back to the public sphere and spark dialogue with a wide variety of citizens. Living Room Conversations and New Hampshire Listens will be co-branding materials and provide a unique online community to facilitate Living Room Conversations across New Hampshire on the Role of Government. Co-hosts will collect the areas of common ground that emerge from the conversations and share them with the entire community.  A program of sustained Living Room Conversations on topics concerning the state is planned.  New Hampshire Listens has over 6000 trained leaders in its network. 

Radio Interview 
I was interviewed on The Richard Fowler Show and discussed Living Room Conversation. Please note that the interview starts at 00:34:30.   

Living Room Conversations cited  in Slow Democracy 
The soon to be released book Slow Democracy reports on Living Room Conversations as one of three dialog practices that support slow democracy.