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Idealists in Action | June 26, 2020

Lizzy Cooke profile image

Lizzy Cooke

Idealists in Action #09 | Let’s talk
plus, new jobs & volunteer opportunities that make a difference.
Hi there,

I’m no stranger to awkward conversations—especially lately. I live in NYC, but I grew up in a conservative part of Texas, where most of my family and friends still live. So when the election and COVID-19 come up in conversation, I’m often left wondering if I should say how I really feel, or move on for the sake of getting along.

But hear me out—what if we didn’t have to choose? We need to be able to have a healthy dialogue and find common ground. It’s never easy to disagree with someone, but if you both keep things respectful, you might just come out on the other side with a new perspective and a healthier relationship. 

So let’s start talking! The sooner we do, the sooner we can start building a better world, together. 

Waving from NYC, 


In his guide to staying empathetic and self-aware in conflict, our staff writer Angel Eduardo outlined three ideas that can help to keep difficult conversation healthy, respectful, and productive. 

  • Things are complicated: Much of our public discourse depends on distilling people, ideas, and arguments into easily digestible headlines, soundbites, and narratives. Don’t fall for that. None of us are two-dimensional—we’re all people here. 

  • Compassion matters: Remember, we didn’t always know what we know now. We can all remember moments when someone offered us compassionate guidance rather than righteous condemnation, and can easily see how it helped us grow.

  • Try and stay mindful: To keep the conversation productive, take note of topics that get you riled up, and take a break when you find yourself getting agitated. And take special care when arguing in public, where things can escalate quickly. 

Remember, you are not your opinions. Conversations go more smoothly when you both feel respected and you’re focused on discussing ideas, not tearing each other down. Here’s some language you can try (courtesy of Brené Brown, vulnerability expert): 

  • “Help me understand….”

  • “Walk me through that.”

  • “That’s not my experience.”

  • “Tell me why this doesn’t work for you."

Check out our tips for planning kind confrontations with colleagues, and Angel's guide to having difficult conversations.

A few times a month, Living Room Conversations creates a virtual space for people to have difficult conversations, productively. Using discussion guides created by dialogue experts, 4-6 people meet in person or by video for 60-90 minutes “to listen to and be heard by others on one of nearly 100 topics” and to find common ground, despite differences. 

Upcoming conversations to join: Media and Polarization, Unity, and America We Want to Be: Founding Aspirations

If you can’t join a conversation, you can still explore the ever-growing topic list and use the expert discussion guides to start your own chats or volunteer!


National Audubon Society is hiring a Finance and Contracts Associate in Washington, DC.

Sojourner House is hiring an Education Coordinator in Providence, RI.

Black Teacher Collective is hiring instructors and facilitators across Louisiana.

Animal Welfare League of Arlington is hiring an Adoption & Matchmaking Counselor in Arlington, VA.

Stupid Cancer is hiring a Program and Community Coordinator in New York, NY.

Queens Community House is hiring a Director of Communication in Queens, NY. a whole lot more! Start your own search at 

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Lizzy Cooke profile image

Lizzy Cooke

Lizzy Cooke is the editor of the Idealists in Action newsletter. She also builds the Idealist community through social media and marketing. Outside of work you can find her reading, running, or walking dogs for her local animal shelter in Brooklyn.