Political polarization may have reached its worst level in the United States since the Civil War. Enter organizations like Better Angels. Founded in 2016, Better Angels strives to give people the skills to have meaningful conversations between Liberals and Conservatives. I attended a Better Angels Skills Workshop at St Paul United Church-Christ in Saline, MI today. The seminar leaders, Sarah and Maggie, led the group through three hours of instruction and interaction.
Goals for conversations were to: 1) learn about perspectives, feelings and experiences of someone you care about who differs from you politically, 2) have a sense of satisfaction about how you conveyed your own perspective, feelings and experiences, and 3) discover common ground that exists. The session handout addressed four skill sets: 1) setting a constructive tone, 2) listening in a way that makes the person you are addressing feel heard, 3) speaking in a way that helps the other person hear you, and 4) handling difficult moments. Each person was paired with another individual from the workshop and participated in communication interactions to use what had previously been discussed. I think most people who attended the seminar found it to be productive. Since I have a Ph.D. in Speech Communication and Theatre, the ideas were not new to me. Nonetheless, it was interesting to see concepts explained from a slightly different perspective. This seminar addressed communication with reference to political interactions with those whose beliefs are contrary to yours. I met some interesting people. A few attendees came up to me and introduced themselves, letting me know that they had been following me on Facebook or had seen me at a political event they were at. One man had attended an event where I presented six weeks earlier.