Respectful Conversations
Project for MINNESOTA COUNCIL OF CHURCHES

Conversations designed not to change minds, but soften hearts

Respectful Conversations depolarize conflict and strengthen civic culture by helping people not to change their minds, but soften their hearts over divisive issues.

Using a process designed to reduce our physiological threat response, make us more generous with our own stories and increase our curiosity about others, over 2,300 Minnesotans have now participated in 85 empathy-building conversation events. They attend hoping to talk with someone who thinks differently than they do, and they leave with tools powerful enough to transform their interpersonal relationships.

Conversations address same-sex marriage ceremonies, guns in Minnesota, the urban/rural divide, budgeting decisions, drones, immigration reform and "race" relations. and life in the post-election United States.

These dialogues have been studied by experts in democracy building and conflict resolution. In 2015 of this year our model was presented at the Conflict Resolution Minnesota conference. In 2016 these conversations were a featured best practice on a national denominational webinar.

Since the project's beginning in 2012, churches and other organizations have blessed their mission fields with the peace that comes from a Respectful Conversation.

"I wanted to thank you for the wonderful work that Minnesota Council of Churches did for us. We had an excellent facilitator and I would highly recommend the format to anyone. It was an excellent evening."-Rev. Tom Jenkins, Mt. Calvary Lutheran, Eagan, November 2013

“I came with prejudicial beliefs on how others would think. It opened my eyes.” - Anonymous evaluation

“I felt really encouraged and proud of our church. I think we are on the right path as children of Christ.” -Anonymous evaluation

"The overall effect was so beautiful that it was actually dramatic, meaning no bickering or point/counter-point attempts at all, but rather a stream of concise, well-delivered statements of sincerity without  rancor or proselytizing." -lay person at Alexandria United Methodist Church

"If you get a chance, I highly recommend you attend one of these 'Respectful Conversations.'  I ... walked away with more than I brought. I was able to relate to them -- and them to me -- as people" -Pat

"Thanks again for this wonderful process!  It was truly a blessing to our congregation, and hopefully shine a light on a better way of discussing challenging issues and addressing those issues as a congregation, but also in our individual lives." -Rev. Kent Claussen Gubrud, Christus Victor Lutheran Church, Apple Valley, October 2014

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