In 2016, I started a project that was unlike anything I had ever done before. It began as a political argument with my conservative cousin, Dennis.
Like many Americans, Dennis and I had reached adulthood knowing how to talk but not how to listen, how to love but not how to accept and appreciate, how to agree but not how to agree to disagree. We were convinced that if only “they” knew what we knew, they would agree with us, see things our way.
Dennis and I had grown up together. We loved each other. But when it came to talking politics, our views were worlds apart. I became obsessed with figuring out why.
I read everything I could find on the psychological, biological, moral differences between liberals and conservatives. When understanding ways we might be different didn’t lead to more satisfying conversations, I expanded my research into neurobiology, communication skills, negotiation, and conflict resolution.
My quest became the adventure of my lifetime. Every step created a seismic ripple in my political conversations and my marital life, strengthening my relationship with my fellow Americans and helping me see just how dysfunctional my marriage was.
I started a Meetup group in Portland, Oregon where others interested in talking across political differences could meet, get to know one another, and explore the issues facing us all. Less than a year later, I discovered a stranger, Kareem Abdelsadek, had formed a similar Meetup group in New York City. We joined forces to create Crossing Party Lines, Inc., a national nonprofit that currently has chapters in seven states and over 5000 members.
This project has grown into a national phenomenon. I’ve run more than 150 conversations across party lines. I’ve translated the lessons I learned into workshops that we offer free to our members and an online Moderator Training program that has allowed us to train 20+ new moderators to meet the ever-increasing demand for the kind of conversations we provide.
You can learn more our organization at the following sites: