Donald Trump.

It seems that even a name holds enough division to set our pulses racing. A new movement is trying to bring people back together.

John Wood, Jr. and Rob Robertson are a part of Better Angels, a movement that isn’t just bringing people back to the table, they are bringing them together. John explains,

“At Better Angels, we really specialize in bringing people into a shared space and giving them the opportunity not so much to argue about the issues, but to be honest with one another in terms of where they’re coming from; in the context of their own life experience.”

“If you’re looking to apply that to one of your relationships, it might be good not to go back and forth over who’s right or wrong about the issue, but to talk a little bit about how it is you came to view things in the first place.”

When we find someone who opposes our thinking, we unconsciously try and pull them onto our side. But that pull is often an ulterior motive that doesn’t build a relationship, it only builds tension. Rob explains,

“One important thing to add is that in Better Angels no one is trying to persuade anyone of anything. Everybody’s free to leave with the same views that they brought with that morning. I think that’s one of the secrets of success in discussion.”

“People’s defenses tend to drop when they realize that nobody is trying to persuade them that they should change their point of view. That is so helpful for our work. It gives us the room to create an opportunity for people to relax and listen, and we’re not doing a lot of listening at the national level and especially not on social media.”

John reminds us that there is no possibility of coming to an understanding, if we don’t listen before we speak.

“We all have different experiences but if you don’t have a window into the experience of the person with whom you disagree you’re never going to have any sense of what you yourself might be missing. Even if it doesn’t change your mind, knowing what another person goes through or as been through will show you what lead him or her to their conclusion. Knowing how they arrived there is going to help you better articulate your perspective in a way that’s going to get that other person to actually listen to it.”

“If civic society is worth anything at all it’s given us the opportunity to listen and communicate with each other effectively, so that we can actually change things for the better.”

The practice of listening to understand can be modeled in every conversation we have.

“If we don’t understand the life experiences and context of that other person, we won’t have the opportunity to understand them on a visceral and emotional level. When you view them through that window, you can see the fact that they’re just a person. They may be looking at an issue a little bit differently than you are, but they’re coming from a place that we can ultimately understand.”

“If we do that, we can remember that each of us are human beings and we can proceed to actually have a thoughtful dialogue on the subject.”

We live in a country of diverse people and experience, as a result we are going to tackle challenges differently. But that doesn’t mean we have to tackle them alone. If we can learn to listen to one another before we disagree or argue with one another, we will take a massive step toward mending this divide.

Better Angels is a movement founded in 2016, of conversations and debates that aim to show how we are similar, over how we are different. You can learn more about them at their website

John Wood & Rob Robertson - Dissolving our differences