How to Have Fearlessly Curious Conversations in Dangerously Divided Times

With the public gravitating toward insular hostile camps, bipartisan cooperation is rare in our current politics. Mónica Guzmán building a bridge between such groups. She has experience in doing so as the director of digital and storytelling at Braver Angels, a nonprofit dedicated to bridging the partisan divide in our democratic republic.

Guzmán argues that creating and sustaining a discussion is very achievable in her book I Never Thought of It That Way: How to Have Fearlessly Curious Conversations in Dangerously Divided Times. Guzmán shows we can participate in less hostile conversations if we are open to listening and understanding why others have different beliefs.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How do you have a conversation with someone who sees the left’s agenda being akin to communism, something dark and destructive?

In the same way I have a conversation with anyone who holds views I don’t share and struggle to understand: by getting curious not just about the perspective but the person. What led them to that view? What have they done or seen that points to it? I’ve had this particular conversation with several people and have found things I can relate to by asking not why they believe what they believe but how they came to believe it.

Is there a bias in the narrative of mainstream media that contributes to our national divide? For example, Eddie, a man in rural Kentucky, told you he’s tired of the news lecturing him as if he were a racist.

What we call our mainstream media does tend to lean left in its views, when they arise, and what we call conservative media does tend to object and react to those views. The hostility we see between these two amplifies the already exaggerated hostility each “side” sees in the other. A majority of working journalists are liberal. That doesn’t mean we’re incapable of truly listening to people like Eddie. But when we’re this polarized, we’re going to have to work harder to do it. And fast.

Why were you afraid to tell your fellow Seattle liberals that you speak to and understand your Trump-supporting parents?

Nick Licata,