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Building Unity Through Listening and Civic Participation

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How do you build a more compassionate society through civil participation? There is so much divisiveness in our country today and people live in their ideological bubbles. When people engage across divides, Libby Stegger sees two common trends. First, some agree to avoid a discussion altogether. But, if they do engage, it’s often explosive and damaging to the relationship. 

Libby believes there’s a better way, a way where people can interact more productively, listen authentically, and find common ground. That’s why she founded Move for America.

Move for America matches participants into a fellowship program with local community-based organizations where they experience immersive service-learning. Throughout the fellowship, they develop and practice skills to bridge divides and reflect on the positive impact of the community they’re serving.

Learn To See The Humanity In Differing Perspectives

The goal of Move for America isn’t about compromising or sacrificing your beliefs. But you have to learn to see humanity in another person’s perspective. It starts with having a dialogue or even spirited debate, with an opportunity to learn about the other person’s perspective without feeling forced to change your mind.

Libby emphasizes, “When we don’t have that dialogue, when we don’t seek to see the humanity in other people, we actually fuel more fear, division and mistrust.” You must embrace productive dialog and accept you may never see eye-to-eye on a topic —and that’s okay. 

Can you simply hear the other person and try to understand their values and where they’re coming from? You don’t have to convince someone that they’re wrong. Instead, try to empathize with them. Libby notes that empathy is deeply courageous because it’s scary but also rewarding to try and understand someone else’s feelings.

 

Employ Active Listening To Engage In Deep Understanding

Libby points out that conflict stems from an emotional reaction to something that has been said.  Your fight or flight instinct kicks in, prompting either conflict or retreat. But you can pause for a moment and choose to understand the person better instead. It can feel tense—but lean into it. Ask them questions and listen intently. 

You can ask, “How did you come to that belief?” Or you can point out that you believe something different but that you’re curious how they see things. When you ask genuine questions, you can find that you might not be as far apart on sensitive issues as you thought. 

Build a foundation of trust by choosing to meet people where they are. It’s okay to see the world differently but it doesn’t mean that everything actually is different. We can work to find shared solutions that advance our common values. If more of us do this, it can create a ripple effect.

 

What You’ll Experience With Move For America

When you become a fellow with Move for America, you become part of a cohort. You start with a week-long orientation with training and workshops with guest speakers who cover these topics. 

You practice bridging divides, having conversations, and embracing the mindfulness to take a breath when your fight or flight instinct kicks in. Then you dive in and work in community organizations based on your interests. 

Each week the group comes together to reflect on what they’re learning and how they've evolved. Libby firmly states that this is a muscle and you must practice. It’s a reflective work designed to help build compassionate communication that is essential for everyday life.

 

Listen to this episode to learn about...

  • [1:02] Why Libby launched Move4America.org
  • [2:37] Learn to see the humanity in differing perspectives
  • [8:37] What you’ll experience with Move for America
  • [11:09] What if you’ll never see eye-to-eye on a topic?
  • [12:45] Should people you disagree with get a platform?

 

Listen to the bonus episode to learn Libby’s advice for young people graduating and entering the workforce, and how to enter the fellowship program at Move4America.org.

LISTEN TO THE BONUS EPISODE


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