An Antidote to Divisiveness and Gridlock: COFFEE PARTY USA and Local Communities

Posted by on May 07, 2019 at 5:12 PM

Reposted from

Sit down with each other face to face. Keep listening. Be heard. Find common ground. Build a new story.

Are we avoiding real conversation, or perhaps yelling at each other from inside our bubbles and lenses?  Limiting ourselves to winning or losing in the political arena? Members of a body politic but paralyzed and cut off from one another? Fearful of the escalating worldwide change and of the breakdown of our social fabric, or cynical about self-government and the future, or despairing of resisting and attacking and being attacked, or hoping somebody does something?

We usually realize that our futures are entwined, we affect each other, we can help each other, we have worsening problems that can be solved only by working together, and as humans we have similar needs and hopes.

So let’s go off line and create a safe space to talk. So many of us are craving civility and real civics but are afraid to talk to each other. So let’s start over right where we live — and face to face — where we can build some trust.

Face to face is how we will get through our differences. And of course there are differences.  We come from divergent cultures and have different upbringings, beliefs, and priorities in our values. We also differ in strategies for adapting to life, authorities and rules we feel subject to, and assumptions about others’ behaviors and motivation. We may have had personal conflict with one another, and now fear future engagement. We have been sticking with our stories and past experiences with each other. Online and in the media it’s hard to see beyond them. In person, we can “get” or “get over” each other one at a time.

A small group meeting, maybe with opportunities for dyads, provides for personal exchange that allows each of us to:

  1. Acknowledge and drop the way I’ve been showing myself to others through media, or the way I’ve been “showing up” in past personal conflicts. (book Breaking Through Gridlock)
  2. Tell a story of the perspective & experiences & beliefs I’ve brought with me. When satisfied I’ve been heard I can drop the story to start a new ending or start a shared history.
  3. Confide my hopes and intentions for future cooperation.

To make a civil, “safe” space to interact means we promise to deal with each other as persons worthy of respect. It means saying “yes” to the person while saying “no” to disrespectful behavior. I believe that all perspectives and beliefs are acceptable to have, and each is subject to another person’s disagreement. Our words and actions have impact on each other. Each person is accountable for their words and actions; accountability means that listeners will tell you the impact they felt. Your viewpoint is yours and not a property of anyone else. I can only accept it, and telling me your story behind it may help me understand it. Giving a hearing to each opposing proposal, as well as the individual’s story for that opinion, clears the ground for both tellers and listeners to construct a joint proposal.

What could you accomplish with common ground and cooperation with others in your community?  

  • Get over your fear of each other and start healing divisiveness
  • Spread civility and understanding of other viewpoints and boost civic engagement
  • Get started on solving local issues the diverse community has in common

Coffee Party USA started a decade ago with people sitting down with a cup of coffee in small groups around the nation and developed into a national organization promoting civility. Lately we have been getting more requests for referrals to and support for groups in local communities. Therefore we would like to help you find each other and start meeting locally to renew civic engagement. We want to help face-to-face groups establish regular meetings, understand each others’ views & issues & civic goals, and also address local issues on the common ground they create.

We can offer you tools for conversation and meetings, Facebook group pages for communication, contacts for other Coffee Party supporters in your region, and a national support team with video-conference capabilities with which you can share experiences with other leaders and get advice and support. Start a group today; to sign up click here.


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post are strictly those of the author and do not represent the views of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund, the Bridge Alliance, or the Bridge Alliance’s member organizations. Additionally, the Bridge Alliance Education Fund makes no representations as to the accuracy of this post’s contents.