In the U. S. and around the world, we are mired in political conflicts that are filled with bitterness and hatred, prejudice and personal attacks, leading to increased stereotyping and discrimination, adversarial assumptions, divisive language and antagonistic zero-sum power- and rights-based processes that unnecessarily pit us against each other and diminish our ability to work together to solve problems that increasingly impact all of us.
The problem is, we haven’t figured out yet how to discuss political ideas and beliefs in ways that lead to learning, collaborative outcomes, increased empathy, mutual understanding and joint problem solving. How, then, do we learn to talk to each other about difficult and dangerous issues? How do we discuss what we believe in without becoming biased and adversarial? What is politics anyway, and what are the components of political conflict? What is dialogue, and how do we design, organize and facilitate conversations about contentious topics without degenerating into monologues and pointless diatribes? What skills and capacities do we need for democracy to work? What are the limits of democracy and how is it evolving? What can interest-based approaches to conflict teach us about how to engage in political conflicts?
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