Face to face civil discourse can be a challenge when individuals or groups from different perspectives try to communicate.
“Americans on opposite sides of the political spectrum don’t only disagree on issues — they increasingly dislike one another,” according to Braver Angels, an organization of volunteers whose mission is to bring Americans together to bridge the partisan divide and strengthen our democratic republic.
Learning to speak with respect and civility around controversial topics is the goal of a program called ‘De-Polarizing Political Conversations’ scheduled for this Thursday November 16 at Sierra College in Grass Valley.
“So many Americans are alarmed and appalled by the discord and hate that is tearing our country apart, but don’t know what to do about it,” Lynn Forbes, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Nevada County said.
‘De-Polarizing Political Conversations’ is a presentation guided by two Braver Angels representatives — one who identifies as a red / conservative and one who identifies as a blue / progressive. The representatives will share tools and techniques for communicating in a positive and constructive manner with people of different backgrounds and political affiliations.
The objective is not to change someone’s political views, but to better understand differences and find common ground where it exists, according to Deborah York, President of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Nevada County.
“The presenters are going to talk about their framework, organization, and experience, and then they’re going to do a role play session between themselves to show how this works and what it looks like,” Megan Loeswick, President of Business and Professional Women in Nevada County.
Other members from different ends of a political spectrum will take on topics, while representatives from the Braver Angels offer feedback and coaching using the communication skills — taking the workshop from the conceptual to the practical, according to Loeswick.
The connotation and emotion associated with words is always evolving, so it can be a challenge to understand why some words or expressions trigger discord. Braver Angels creates a safe environment, to say things that aren’t politically correct, or to ask an awkward question about pronouns, euphemisms, historical references, or other forms of loaded language in order to move forward.
“How do we say things that are better heard by the person that we’re speaking to? There’s an opportunity here to make some mistakes, but to do it in a safe environment, so we can learn and grow together. That’s what I want to see from Nevada County,” Loeswick said.
Getting to the depth of why some words are preferred over others, helps us communicate with a holographic view, from all angles, according to Loeswick.
The event is sponsored by the Associated Students of Sierra College and will be presented by the Nevada County League of Women Voters (LWVNC), American Association of University Women (AAUW) Nevada County Branch, and Business and Professional Women (BPW) of Nevada County.
The program will be led by representatives of Braver Angels, including volunteer Maxim Schrogin.
“I don’t ever remember feeling this much polarization and difference between people, to the point where we can’t have a conversation,” Loeswick said. “We tend to surround ourselves more and more with people who think like us and talk like us; it’s just easier.”
Skills and communication tools demonstrated in the “De-Polarizing Political Conversations’ can carry over into our personal relationships as well, according to Loeswick.
Politics have always been a passionate subject, and people have always had deep disagreements — that’s the way it’s supposed to be in America, according to Braver Angels. It takes courage to listen with empathy, and to respond to ideas, not with personal attacks.
In a 2023 study by the Pew Research Center, a majority of Americans said they feel exhausted and angry when thinking about politics these days.
After attending a Red / Blue Workshop presented by Braver Angels, of those participants polled 81% said they feel better prepared to apply the skills they learned, and 71% said that they felt better understood by the other side.
The skills and techniques at the ‘De-Polarizing Political Conversations’ event aim to build confidence to work together.
The ‘De-Polarizing Political Conversations’ event is scheduled for November 16 from 6 — 8 p.m., doors open at 5:30 in the Multipurpose Room, Building N12 at Sierra College, Nevada County Campus located at 250 Sierra College Drive in Grass Valley.
The event is free and open to the public. Parking is also free.
The LWV is a nonpartisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. BPW of Nevada County’s mission is to advocate, support and promote equity for women in all aspects of their lives. AAUW Nevada County Branch’s mission is to advance equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy and research.