Thank you for raising important questions about political polarization in your July 24 editorial. It’s easy to turn away from political conversations. Some conversations quickly escalate into an argument – even with family, friends, and neighbors, while other conversations are completely avoided. We don’t think either approach is very satisfying.

Recently, after serving as Wisconsin delegates to the National Better Angels Conference, we’ve been trying something new. We spend more time asking questions and listening to people outside of our usual circles (questions such as, “We’re curious about different viewpoints. Can I ask you something about your political views?”) We often get a surprised look, and a fairly short back and forth. On occasion, we connect in a longer conversation that rises above typical soundbites, and the temptation to simply dismiss political opponents. This can lead to an unexpected sense of common ground, or a deeper understanding of each other and the true points of disagreement. Either way, we think it’s a win when we get better at listening and respecting each other. 

Talking across the political divide can be challenging. Though it might not work with everyone, in every situation, we’ve found, making the effort to listen and show respect can help make our wonderful community even better. 

To learn more about the Better Angels citizen movement and this new approach to talking politics, visit www.better-angels.org/our-story/

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