Democracy begins in discussion

It's National Week of Conversation in the United States. So let's get to it.

National Week of Conversation was created for Americans who are exhausted by the division and hatred in our country. For those seeking ways to turn down the heat of polarization, this is a week to become inspired, equipped and engaged in activities that build bridges across differences. 
During the week, individuals, groups, and communities across the United States will participate in conversations to build connections, explore diverse perspectives, and find common ground. This annual event is reminder of our shared humanity and the potential for positive change when we engage in respectful and open dialogue.
Here are some opportunities to participate – and suggestions on how to the make the most of this week.

Host or attend an event

Whether it’s a small gathering with friends and family or a community-wide discussion, hosting or attending a conversation event is a great way to participate in National Week of Conversation. Choose a topic that matters to you, whether it’s politics, social issues, or personal experiences, and create a safe space for open dialogue. 
Take a look at this menu of events and resources from national organizers and partners. Closer to home, please be sure to join us at 6:30 pm on Tuesday, April 16, at First-Plymouth Church in Lincoln for a free screening of PURPLE, a short film that tackles the ins and out of maintaining civil discourse. Stay for the 30-minute film, then join Civic Nebraska and First-Plymouth for a guided discussion about how to reduce polarization and political fighting in favor of shared problem-solving. 

Practice active listening

Effective communication is not just about speaking; it’s also about listening. During National Week of Conversation, make a conscious effort to practice active listening — truly hearing and understanding what others are saying without judgment or interruption. Pay attention not only to the words spoken but also to the emotions and perspectives behind them.

Step outside your comfort zone

Challenge yourself to engage with viewpoints that differ from your own. Seek out conversations with people who hold different beliefs or come from diverse backgrounds. Embrace discomfort as an opportunity for growth and learning, recognizing that it’s through respectful disagreement that we can expand our understanding of the world. This isn’t easy work – in fact, it takes a great deal of courage.

Use empathy as a guide

Approach conversations by seeking to understand the experiences and perspectives of others. Put yourself in their shoes, acknowledging the validity of their feelings and lived experiences even if they differ from your own. Empathy fosters connection and compassion, laying the foundation for meaningful dialogue.

Reflect, then act

Take time to reflect on the conversations you participate in during the week. What did you learn? How did they challenge your preconceptions or broaden your perspective? Use these insights as motivation to take action in your community, whether it’s volunteering, advocating for change, or simply striving to be a more engaged and empathetic citizen. 
Congratulations on your personal growth, and for helping to fortify American democracy!

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