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How to Have Your Own Dialogue

How to Have Your Own Dialogue

In the Jesuit tradition, students practiced listening to understand in a recent civic engagement initiative to bridge the political divide. "Bursting Political Bubbles: Dialogue Across Differences," brought students together for discussion in several sessions this past spring. 

You, too, can have your own dialogue. To get started, first read the communication agreement below. Then you'll find some questions for discussion. These are based on work by the nonprofit organization Essential Partners and the writings of St. Ignatius of Loyola. You can read about the Essential Partners method here.

"Be slow to speak, and only after having first listened quietly, so that you may understand the meaning, leanings, and wishes of those who do speak. Thus you will better know when to speak and when to be silent.” - St. Ignatius of Loyola

Political Dialogues Communication Agreement 

1. We will speak for ourselves, from our own experience, using “I statements”, and will allow others to do the same.

2. We will share honestly and openly our personal experiences, stories, and values while knowing we can also “pass for now” if we are not ready or do not wish to respond.

3. We will listen to understand, respecting others’ experiences, stories, and values, even and especially when they differ from our own. 

4. We reserve the right to change our minds, carefully considering reasons and experiences underlying different opinions.

5. We will respect time frames and share the airtime to allow all voices to be heard.

6. We will be present and engaged in the dialogue, minimizing distractions and interruptions.

7. We will honor confidentiality by sharing our learning without sharing the experiences or identities of others.

Sample Questions for Discussion

  • Talk about an important relationship you have with someone who is very different from you or holds different perspectives than you. What makes it meaningful?

  • Talk about a community to which you feel a deep sense of connection. What draws you to that community?

  • The current political climate in the United States is characterized by extreme polarization between the two main political parties. At the same time, we know 1) human identities are rich and complicated and none of us fit into a single story and 2) we want to hold firm in our convictions. Tell us a story from your personal experience that leads you to hold certain political or social issues as vital.

  • Thinking about those political or social issue(s), what is at the heart of the matter for you? What are the values that are important to you that lead you to hold those issues as vital?  
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