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Conference Attendees Put Civil Discourse to the Test During Interactive Session

During the “Bring It to the Table” interactive session with award-winning documentary filmmaker Julie Winokur, executive director of Talking Eyes Media, Mackinac Policy Conference attendees were tasked with learning to listen and understand the “other side.” With the same setup she used while traveling the country – a table and a flower – Winokur explained how although simple, it serves a distinct purpose.

Winokur invited an attendee to join her at the table and move the flower to the left or right to show where on the political spectrum he stands. She followed that up with asking why he felt he identified as conservative.

With a goal of listening and talking about issues in their nuance, Winokur asked leading questions with a notion of “tell me more and tell me something personal.”

“Listening is not just waiting for the other person to stop speaking,” Winokur explained. “I want to task you all with approaching political conversations with an ‘I want to understand you better’ mentality.”

After consciously listening to the attendee sitting across the table from her she asked, “What issues have you changed your mind on over the years?” Expressing that transformation is important and shows how as humans we evolve.

Following the demonstration, Winokur asked the audience to sit across from a stranger and try it for themselves. After identifying who would be the questioners and setting the flower, attendees partook in a table talk on immigration.

Prompts for questioners included:

  • Do you think there is a problem with immigration in America, and if so, what is the problem?
  • What have you personally experienced in terms of immigration – positive or negative?
  • How has your opinion evolved over time?

Following the activity, attendees expressed how the talk helped them understand why someone identified the way they do. The interactive session falls into the Mackinac Policy Conference pillar of “restoring civility in American politics.”

More from Julie Winokur at the 2017 Mackinac Policy Conference

Julie Winokur: Civil Discourse Begins with Willingness to Listen