This from the Introduction to the Common Tables member's guide "Conversation: The Main Course":
"Many of us are uneasy with the notion of entering into casual, social discussions with people we view as somehow different than ourselves. So, as we approach our first Common Tables gatherings, the question we are faced with is this: Given that most of us aren’t very comfortable talking with strangers about the small stuff, how in the world do we get our Table to the place where we are talking about things like spirituality and religion, faith, bigotry and prejudice, or even eternity?
"The answer is that we allow things to evolve slowly. Very slowly. It’s not like talking about the weather or speculating about the winner of tomorrow’s football game. You can share differing opinions about the probable outcome of a sporting event or about the accuracy of tomorrow’s weather forecast and no one will take it personally, but if you so much as hint that you find someone’s belief system to be nonsensical or devoid of logic, you are attacking the very core of their identity. Such beginnings won’t lead to the sort of open, unencumbered, purely-trying-to-understand discussion and debate that we all want to foster.
"So take it easy. Use some of our suggestions and start to get to know one another. Your Table’s members will begin to disclose bits of information about themselves and, as personalities unfold, you will find that trust and respect flourish. You’ll discover unexpected commonalities . . . and differences to keep in mind as you move into more personal and potentially sensitive areas of dialogue."
We provide topics to stimulate conversation at each of our Common Tables seatings. Members are encouraged to try some of our suggestions . . . or make up some “ice breakers” on their own.
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