Better Angels 2019 Convention Offerings
These are workshops of three or six hours that bring together about seven “reds” (conservatives, Republicans), and seven “blues” (liberals, Democrats) in structured conversation. The goals are to better understand each other beyond stereotypes and to look for common ground. Designed to encourage listening and learning rather than declaring and debating, these workshops usually lead to a shared belief that we’re less divided than we’ve been told. Participants rarely change their views on issues, but they consistently change their views of each other.
Better Angels offers 2.5-hour skills workshops for groups ranging from 8-80 people who want to learn how to communicate with people who differ from them politically. They learn and practice skills for listening in a way that the other person feels heard, and speaking in a way that the other person is likely to hear you. There are three kinds of skills workshop: a generic workshop for reds and blues together, a workshop just for blues, and one just for reds. The latter two, which run for three hours, offer insights on common communication barriers each side puts up, information on core values and principles of the other side, and a skills practice on how talk about President Trump with someone who feels differently about him and his presidency.
Much of today’s polarization is driven by how we talk with like-minded people about those on the other side. Too often we stereotype, dismiss, or ridicule our fellow citizens who support the other political party, its leaders, and its policies. This three-hour workshop helps participants become more aware of their own “inner polarizer.” It teaches how to be critical without demonizing, dismissing, or stereotyping large swaths of the population. And it offers strategies for intervening constructively in social conversations that veer into contempt and ridicule for people who hold other political views.
Better Angels Debates
A new way to discuss public issues in a structured but lively debate format where the goal is searching together for what is true rather than scoring points or defeating anyone. Better Angels debates use a parliamentary-style format where everyone in the room can participate and where people speak for themselves rather than for a team. Speakers are encouraged to build on what others have said, to admit when they don’t know something about the topic, and to change their minds if they are so moved. Debates take 90-120 minutes and can range from 20-50 participants. They have been popular among college and high school students, and are spreading now to community groups.
For Better Angels members who want to try out their skills in one-to- one conversations with someone on the other political side, we offer a structured guide for a set of two 1-hour conversations. The goal is better understanding and finding common ground. There are opportunities to talk how your life experiences have influenced your political views, to discuss a public issue that is particularly important to you, and to see where you overlap and differ from someone who is sharing in the same way. The 1:1 Conversation is for people who are willing to follow a structured process that promotes sharing and listening rather than declaring and debating. One of the pair must have taken a Better Angels skills workshop in person or online. This requirement does not apply to delegates to the Better Angels convention.