Slightly more than 20 people participated in workshop

to depolarize the political communication divide

By Chuck Gibson  

LOVELAND, OH (June 30, 2021) – A group of 22 people joined together at the Braver Angels ‘Depolarizing Within’ workshop held Saturday morning, June 26, at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Loveland, Ohio

Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 101 S. Lebanon Rd. Loveland, OH (Chuck Gibson)

The declared purpose of the workshop is to help communities navigate the political messaging polarizing us socially and even in our own homes. Prince of Peace (POP) hosted the three-hour workshop Saturday morning from 9a.m. to 12-noon with Eugene Rutz moderating. At the end of the session, participating members shared some words about their experience and their personal take-away. Their words revealed a good experience and some communication lessons learned.

Group engaged in Braver Angels “Depolarizing Within” Workshop Saturday, June 26, 2021 (Chuck Gibson)

Here’s some of what they said: “I enjoyed this. Braver Angels, I didn’t know this, there are great lectures all the time.”  Another individual echoed the sentiment: “I thought the handouts were really excellent.”  “I think what I’m taking away from this I’m not the only one sitting wondering why everyone else in the world isn’t as reasonable as me.”

The whole group laughed out loud in acknowledgement of that comment. “I guess I came looking how to have conversations with family.” One expressed confidence in now having the tools to be more engaging with parties who may have different political views or beliefs. “I came with a mindset of listening, the value of listening; that was just reinforced heavily today.”

That individual cited the importance of listening and responding while pointing out the difference between responding and reacting. Response, he said comes from rational thought, while reaction is emotion-driven and not as likely to be reasonable and respectful toward another.

Lilly, a Prince of Peace minister, was encouraged by the group of people coming together for the workshop.

“This is hard work,” she said. “It’s encouraging to know there is a group of people working toward unity, working for depolarization together. That’s encouraging.”

Robin Brands is a member of Braver Angels, but was attending the ‘Depolarizing Within’ workshop for the first time. She believes it is important to get people talking, having real serious conversations which help bring the human element alive and allows people to understand how to move forward. This workshop is very focused internally with participants arriving with the thinking of “that other group” and not seeing the common humanity.

“In reality it all starts at home right,” said Brands. “How do we even have the conversations with our own friends and family who believe the same thing we believe so we’re not feeling the fire, so we can open up broader thinking and have bigger conversations.”

The group of participants in the Braver Angels workshop had big conversations during the three-hour event at Prince of Peace Saturday, June 26, (Chuck Gibson)

For Brands, the biggest piece was the Pivot piece recognizing it’s easy to become emotional when somebody comes at you with a different perspective.

“If you have a pivot and somebody says can I offer some different thoughts, or can we talk about a different perspective, you can get your mind in a place where you’re willing to receive and have that conversation,” Brands concluded.

Nancy Downing attended the workshop after reading about it in the Loveland Beacon with hopes that it would open up renewed lines of communications with her own adult children.

“I thought this must be something I want to see,” said Downing. “When I read the article, I thought Oh my gosh, this is what we need for our own family.”

The question is: did it help?

It was great,” Downing said. “This isn’t just political, this is anything that happens. You have to open the conversation and the conversation has to go both ways. You have to learn how to receive the conversation coming at you as well as what you’re giving.”

Downing plans to let her family know she attended “this wonderful seminar” and will share links from Braver Angels to help them learn how to have those real serious conversations Brands talked about. 

“I want to get them involved somehow,” said Downing with hopes it will renew lines of communication within her own family.

Eugene Rutz, Moderator, Braver Angels Workshop & Memberr Prince of Peace Lutheran Church (Photo Provided)

Moderator/leader of the workshop Eugene Rutz found the participation and attendance to be good despite the challenge of getting people in the right frame of mind.

“I was very pleased with how it went today,” said Rutz. “The hard part, well it’s not hard, but you gotta get the right mindset for this one. This one is about talking with people you agree with, what can you do to change the conversation so we don’t stereotype or belittle the other side.”

Rutz was equally pleased by the turnout of 20-plus people. The registration was limited to 32 people, but he admitted 20-25 is a good number to work with in the workshop setting. He noted there will be additional workshops scheduled in the future. In the end, the main lesson, the main takeaway can be summed up in one simple word. RESPECT! 

The group walked away from the workshop with tools to have respectful conversations with others –even family members and friends – who see things from a different perspective in the too-often polarizing world of politics. Now, this Braver Angels group can help to respectfully depolarize political conversations in our community.

“This was a great size,” Rutz said. “You can handle it. People are comfortable.”  

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