Living Room Conversations hosts community event to promote connection

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Provo community members participate in an exercise to learn to have conversations with those of differing beliefs. Living Room Conversations offers free online resources. (Zoe Cook)

The national organization Living Room Conversations presented at the Provo City Library on Nov. 29.

Living Room Conversations Conversation Agreement. (Photo courtesy of Living Room Conversations website)

Becca Kearl, executive director of Living Room Conversations explained that the presentation was aimed to promote discussion and community.

Conversation “agreements” were placed on every table, with a set of rules (pictured right). One of the first rules was “Be curious and listen to understand. Conversation is as much about listening as it is about talking.”

These rules were meant to establish a space where real discussions and connection could be had in an epidemic of loneliness, Kearl explained.

“If we can be curious to understand where someone else is coming from, if we can show respect to someone and try to suspend judgment, if we can value differences as much as we’re looking for common ground, then we start to move into a place where we can feel more connected to each other,” Kearl said.

From this point in the presentation, each person at every table was given “one breath” to introduce themselves and define community in one word. “Community, as I would say, is connection,” said Joanna Harmon, a therapist at Harmon Psychotherapy and Consulting. At the same table, Utah Department of Transportation engineer Jeffrey Huffman defined community as belonging.

To further explore the idea of community and differing ideas, participants watched “True False Hot Cold,” an unreleased docuseries. These episodes, and the series as a whole, focused on Emery County’s skepticism of climate change as found in a Yale opinion survey.

The series creator, Ben Stillerman, explained that the experience humanized a group of people that began to him as a “simplified, abstract person out there with … abstract, wrong beliefs.”

After spending three months in Emery making the documentary, Stillerman explained that while he didn’t necessarily agree with Emery’s climate change stance, he understood the people, their values and some of why they believed what they believed.

“I truly do think that our beliefs are almost entirely formed by the community in which we spend most of our time and the personal experiences we have,” Stillerman said.

As people got up to leave the event, groups from a few tables remained intact and spoke with each other as they walked out of the library.

Living Room Conversations offers free online resources to foster these kinds of conversations to anyone interested in learning more.

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