On Thursday evening, December 1, approximately sixty people participated in the Winchester Multicultural Network’s program entitled “Now What? Building Community After the Elections.” This program, led by True Story theater, was a workshop on how to have productive dialogues across political differences, and included improvisational playback theater, to enhance audience understanding of the opinions and feelings expressed.

The three aspects noted as being most important in conversations across difference were: (1) active listening: showing interest without interruptions or judgment; (2) empathy: trying to understand and reflect the feelings of the speaker; and (3) bridge-building, a combination of empathy and the identification of common needs and visions.

While it was hoped there would a diverse representation of political perspectives in the room, that was not the case. Therefore, True Story Theater directed people to role play someone who voted differently than they did, and explain that position, as a way of increasing understanding of other perspectives. Several participants noted that they did find common ground through this exercise. People also found it empowering to hear other’s perspectives and struggles; one person noted that the program stimulated new ways of thinking.

Strategies for active listening and supporting other views (pdf)