We don’t have to agree on everything. Just democracy.
At the Franklin Project, we want conversations about the important issues facing our nation to be synonymous with progress — not ruined family dinners and fallouts with neighbors. We want to elevate the debate and help you have healthy conversations about democracy with those around you.
One simple way to start is by initiating a pro-democracy conversation with friends or family members. These are deliberate, civil conversations about specific topics impacting our democracy right now. Use our guide below to plan a conversation.
Expect to disagree, and prepare to be uncomfortable at times. But remember, we can’t solve anything if we don’t start talking with each other about the important issues facing our communities. And our democracy is worth the effort.
Step 1: Pick a Topic
First pick a topic that’s important to you or an issue you want to learn more about. Use our Conversation Starters below to educate yourself and jumpstart your discussions.
Step 2: Make the Conversation Count
Your most productive dialogue about politics probably isn’t going to happen via random tweets in between meetings. Be intentional about having these important conversations, and make enough time and space for them. You can even turn them into a regular social event by getting friends or family together in a private setting and hosting a Junto gathering — a friendly club to discuss current issues. More on how to start a Junto club here.
Identify the common ground
We won’t agree on everything or even most things. We are a diverse nation and every person experiences the world a little differently. So start with what you can agree on, whether that’s one small aspect of an issue or just something you both like or value outside of politics. If all else fails you can both agree to disagree, which can actually be a positive thing.
Commit to civility
There’s nothing wrong with adamantly opposing someone else’s stance, or getting passionate about your point of view. But bullying, berating or belittling someone for their viewpoint is never acceptable. The Healthy Humans Project gives some solid tips on how to have a civil conversation when you disagree — a lot of it boils down to empathy.
It's not personal
Are you someone who feels wounded when others don’t see things your way? It’s a sign you’re taking issues too personally, and it could be keeping you from enriching conversations with others. This TedxTalk on how not to take things so personally recommends shifting the focus from you to the other person. Try to imagine how a situation might be impacting someone else rather than obsessing about its effect on you.
Have a plan if it gets ugly
It’s normal for the temperature to rise during a debate, but there’s a big difference between spicy and scorched earth. Arm yourself with what to say if things begin to take a turn for the worst. Here’s a great set of phrases to help defuse an argument on the verge of a blow-up. Always be ready to stop if things get ugly.
Step 3: Set a Time and Place
Don’t wait for Election Day to have a pro-democracy conversation -- put one on the books today. Benjamin Franklin started a club called “the Junto” to debate important current issues with friends all year round. Here’s how you can start your own Junto club with friends and family members to make these conversations a regular event.
Step 4: Take the Conversation Online
Find us on social media and make your voice heard in the fight for democracy. Use #DemocracyChats and #JuntoClub to share what you’re learning from your pro-democracy conversations and what questions are sparking the best discussions in your circles.