Newsletter: Having Curious Conversations During Challenging Times - A New Conversation with Mónica Guzmán

Mónica Guzmán
Senior Fellow for Public Practice
at Braver Angels

John Donvan
Host and Moderator-in-Chief



Here is what we have in store this week:

  • A new conversation with Mónica Guzmán about how curiosity can help bridge divides in today’s polarized world
  • A closer look at how Americans think of our current state of politics
  • A discussion about American politics and how to talk across the aisle
  • Your Sunday reading list



We’ll say it first: a lot is happening in the world right now. From the war in Israel and Gaza and the war in Ukraine to an upcoming presidential election that will put our divided American politics in focus, tough conversations will take place this holiday season. We have to navigate them without falling into an “us vs. them” mentality and shutting the other side out because we don’t like what they have to say.

How can you do that when you are talking to your friends and family or someone you might encounter socially? Author and Senior Fellow for Public Practice at Braver Angels Mónica Guzmán says you can do that by maintaining your curiosity, staying hopeful in times of conflict, and seeking understanding over being right.

Want to know where to start? Here are a few tips Mónica Guzmán recommends:

  • Allow yourself to be surprised by the other side.
  • Remember: it’s easy to assume you know the full story.
  • If you ask people where they come from, you can understand where they are.
  • Social media does not encourage reflection, it encourages reaction. Take breaks from spaces where you feel pressured to react rather than to listen.
  • Curiosity is the archvillain of fear. The more afraid you are, the less you become capable of finding solutions.
  • Instead of asking, “Why do you believe what you believe?” when you disagree with someone, ask, “How did you come to believe what you believe?”

If you want to learn other techniques for staying curious, Mónica’s conversation with our host and moderator John Donvan is available as a podcast and can be listened to on our YouTube channel.

Thanks for listening and have a happy (and thoughtful) Thanksgiving holiday season.




What can America do as a country to turn these sentiments around?





Mónica Guzmán on Staying Hopeful During the Israel-Gaza War

“I’ve been talking to some folks who are pretty close to the issue, including someone in Israel, and a question’s come up about: is it ever too soon to try to bridge divides? I’ve been reflecting on that because grief takes time and processing and pain takes time. I continue to think that it is always possible. It is, and it ought to be, and it has to be.”

Mónica Guzmán



A Conversation to Consider Before the Holidays


The holiday season doesn’t need to be contentious — especially when it comes to inevitable discussions about America’s partisan politics. How can you find common ground without affecting the holiday spirit?

A while back, John Donvan sat down with the former CEO of National Public Radio, Ken Stern. It’s a thoughtful and enlightening conversation where they discussed Stern spending about a year and a half actively listening to others, particularly those with conservative viewpoints, in order to understand perspectives different from his own.

If you want to find out how that went and what we can do to facilitate better understanding rather than being the loudest and angriest voice in the room, we recommend listening to this episode now on WNYC.





Redefining Success in Ukraine
Richard Haass and Charles Kupchan | November 17, 2023
Foreign Affairs
Watch Charles’s debate on whether NATO should admit Ukraine



Should We Be Worried About the Deficit Now?
Dean Baker | November 17, 2023
Watch Dean’s debate on whether the Fed can manage a soft landing



The Struggle for Black Freedom Has Nothing to Do with Israel
Coleman Hughes | November 15, 2023
The Free Press
Watch Coleman’s debate on whether colorblindness perpetuates racism



Congress Isn’t a Schoolyard. Time to Deal With Toxic Immaturity.
Jessica Grose | November 18, 2023
The New York Times
Watch Jessica’s debate on whether Millennials stand a chance


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