Mónica Guzmán: How to Have Fearlessly Curious Conversations in Divided Political Times

How often do you challenge your assumptions about others and get curious – especially about those in your workplace or your family who have different views than you, political or otherwise? In our increasingly polarized society, my guest today, Mónica Guzmán, believes that we can’t count on institutions to bridge those divides for us – we have to do it one conversation, one person, at a time.

Today, we discussed how she got involved in the work of helping people understand each other better and what role her journalism career played in that mission. We dived into how to bring emotion back into conversations rather than trying to win arguments with data, and a magic question you can ask people who disagree with you to better understand them. We talked about how to have more curious conversations and how to navigate roadblocks. Some great tips for those of you going into election season or tense family dinners over the holidays!

Key Takeaways:

  • You can’t have a negotiation if there is no talking. We are judging more while talking less and that only leads further to divide, and not to empathy and understanding.
  • The level we think change doesn’t matter, one-on-one conversations, is where change happens the most.
  • You often believe that the people that you love and care about who disagree with you are not the majority but an exception to the rule. However, if you talk with others who disagree with you, you will find out that they are not the exception, but the rule

“The most powerful question that actually gets great information from the other person that leads to understanding and also avoids judgment is asking people what concerns them.” — Mónica Guzmán

“If we don’t engage across disagreement, we risk not seeing variables that are really important to other people, and make for a far more honest accounting of everything that’s at play when people make decisions.” —  Mónica Guzmán

“Curiosity is an incredible form of caring.” —  Mónica Guzmán

“Searching for truth and searching for trust, are both incredibly important. If you get to a point in the conversation where you realize you don’t have the same facts…go back to talking about what concerns people and try to have a conversation about values.” —  Mónica Guzmán

About Mónica Guzmán, Senior Fellow for Public Practice at Braver Angels:

Mónica Guzmán is a bridge builder, journalist, and entrepreneur who lives for great conversations sparked by curious questions. She’s the director of digital and storytelling at Braver Angels, the nation’s largest cross-partisan grassroots organization working to depolarize America; host of live interview series at Crosscut; and cofounder of the award-winning Seattle newsletter The Evergrey. Monica’s new book, I Never Thought of It That Way: How to Have Fearlessly Curious Conversations in Dangerously Divided Times has been praised by the media, readers and influencers alike.

She was a 2019 fellow at the Henry M. Jackson Foundation, where she studied social and political division, and a 2016 fellow at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, where she researched how journalists can rethink their roles to better meet the needs of a participatory public. She was named one of the 50 most influential women in Seattle, served twice as a juror for the Pulitzer Prizes, and plays a barbarian named Shadrack in her besties’ Dungeons & Dragons campaign. A Mexican immigrant, Latina, and dual US/Mexico citizen, she lives in Seattle with her husband and two kids and is the proud liberal daughter of conservative parents.

Resources  Mentioned:

The Empathy Edge: Interview with Edwin Rutsch, How Empathy Circles Can Change the World

Center for Building a Culture of Empathy


Empathy Circle Website


Check out Edwin and an Empathy Circle in action in the documentary Trumphobia: What Both Sides Fear: trumphobiamovie.com/watch

Connect with Mónica Guzmán:

Braver Angels Website: https://braverangels.org/

Monica’s Website and info about her book, I Never Thought of It That Way: How to Have Fearlessly Curious Conversations in Dangerously Divided Times: https://reclaimcuriosity.com

Website: https://moniguzman.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/moniguzman

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/moniguzman/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/reclaimcuriosity

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/moniguzman/

Don’t forget to download your free guide! Discover The 5 Business Benefits of Empathy: http://red-slice.com/business-benefits-empathy

Connect with Maria:

Get the podcast and book: TheEmpathyEdge.com

Learn more about Maria and her work: Red-Slice.com

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LinkedIn: Maria Ross

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