Counties across the state are experiencing the impacts of the political polarization facing all levels of government in our country. Whether it be on your county board or in your interactions with citizens, opposing viewpoints and different sources of facts and information are pulling us apart and becoming an obstacle rather than fostering healthy dialogue.
But it doesn’t have to be this way! There are tools you can use to help ‘bridge these divides’ and to work across differences. It all starts on a personal level. You prepare yourself to work in this difficult environment more effectively and then you can help lead others to productive paths to improving your county.
The information below provides tools to help you bridge divides. Review the materials and adjust them to fit your county and the situation. Additional information and tools are available from AMC’s partner, the State of Minnesota’s Office of Collaboration and Dispute Resolution.
For further information regarding ways to bridge divides and work across differences, please contact Ryan Erdmann, AMC Member Engagement Coordinator.
- How We Can Reconcile With Each Other When Our Politics Are So Polarized: A Wall Street Journal article about how sharp political divisions have disconnected us from friends and family, with ideas on how find common ground again.
- The Culture of Contempt
In this New York Times article, Arthur Brooks, author of the tremendous book Love Your Enemies, says the problem in America today is not incivility or intolerance. It's something far worse. It is what he defines as a Culture of Contempt.
- Personal experiences bridge moral and political divides better than facts
All Americans are affected by rising political polarization, whether because of a gridlocked Congress or antagonistic holiday dinners. People believe that facts are essential for earning the respect of political adversaries, but our research shows that this belief is wrong. We find that sharing personal experiences about a political issue—especially experiences involving harm—help to foster respect via increased perceptions of rationality.
- A key to bridging the political divide: Sit down and talk?
The surest way to start rebuilding common ground was to gather people of differing views and backgrounds to sit down and simply talk to each other.
- Braver Angels
Braver Angels is a national organization with a Minnesota Chapter that provides training to help people build skills to depolarize conversations and work with those on the other end of the political spectrum One of the co-founders is Bill Doherty, professor at the University of Minnesota. Braver Angels has worked with MN Counties and has numerous programs and trainings that bring together Red and Blue Americans in a working alliance to depolarize America. A national citizens' movement to bring liberals, conservatives, and others together at the grassroots level – not to find centrist compromise, but to find one another as citizens. Through workshops, debates, and campus engagement, Braver Angels helps Americans understand each other beyond stereotypes, form community alliances, and reduce the vitriol that poisons our civic culture.
- National Institute for Civil Discourse (NCID)
NICD believes that American people will be our saving grace. We are less divided than we seem and hungrier for a more constructive approach to politics. NICD has developed a multi-faceted strategy to channel Americans' yearning into a coherent and powerful force. Our bold vision, compelling strategy, research and programs and high-profile board members combine to set NICD apart as a leader in this movement. In addition to inspiring and organizing everyday Americans, NICD’s strategy is designed to encourage elected leaders to put country ahead of partisanship.
- Listen First Project
The Listen First Project leads a collaborative movement of over 350 organizations to heal America by building relationships and bridging divides. They transform division and contempt into connection and understanding and interpersonal bridge building.
- Bridging Differences Playbook
What will it take to bridge our differences? The Greater Good Science Center studies the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well-being, and teaches skills that foster a thriving, resilient, and compassionate society. They have an entire program dedicated to bridging differences and some tremendous resources.
- Common Ground Conversations by Common Good Committee invite you to learn about both sides of an issue by exploring multimedia content from high-profile guests of diverse political backgrounds. Get informed on today’s most pressing issues – on your own, or with a group – then use what you’ve learned to help bring light and not heat to our nation’s civil discourse.
- Citizen Connect
Citizen Connect is a non-partisan platform dedicated to one thing only – helping Americans find ways to heal our political divides and strengthen our democracy. We think the best way to do that is to make it easy for you to find the civic organizations and events that matter most to you. Citizen Connect connects online users from the left, right and center with in-person and virtual events, as well as information about ways to engage with hundreds of organizations working to heal our political divisions and fix our political system.
- Braver Angles brings Americans together to bridge the partisan divide and strengthen our democratic republic. Among their many tools are a podcast series.
- Common Ground Committee inspires and motivates the public to find common ground and reduce incivility and polarization by demonstrating how influential people of opposing views can unexpectedly find agreement without compromising core values. Common Ground Committee has many great podcasts of discussions with these influential people.
- How to Bridge Political Divides video
Compromise is key to getting anything done in politics. But in our highly polarized world, how do you persuade bitter rivals to seek common ground? Professor Robb Willer found that politicians who craft a message that reflects their opponents' moral values are more likely to open minds.
The Psychology Traits That Shape Your Political Beliefs: Social psychologist Dannagal G. Young breaks down the link between our psychology and politics, showing how personality types largely fall into people who prioritize openness and flexibility (liberals) and those who prefer order and certainty (conservatives). Hear why both sets of traits are crucial to any society, and how differences are being dangerously exploited to divide us.