It is easy to objectify and demonize people we don’t know personally. We know that with many friends and family members relationships foster empathy and compassion that can trump animosities that arise from differences in values and opinions. Unfortunately, it seems Americans have few personal relationships with people other than family who don’t share their politics or ideology.
Side-by-Side events break down stereotypes and invite audiences to come to know local political figures as unique individuals. Typically, two politicians — a Democrat and a Republican – take turns answering questions designed to elicit stories about and reflections on their formative early life experiences. Audiences report overwhelming increases in respect for the politicians holding views least like their own and in confidence that they could have a constructive conversation with them. Similarly, Side-by-Side presenters themselves seem to find bonds of recognition and respect that can support trust and collaboration in the future.