Conversation Resources


Block, Peter and John McKnight. The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods. San Francisco: Barrett-Koehler Publications, 2010.

We need our neighbors and community to stay healthy, produce jobs, raise our children, and care for those on the margin. Institutions and professional services have reached their limit of their ability to help us.

The consumer society tells us that we are insufficient and that we must purchase what we need from specialists and systems outside the community. We have become consumers and clients, not citizens and neighbors. John McKnight and Peter Block show that we have the capacity to find real and sustainable satisfaction right in our neighborhood and community.

This book reports on voluntary, self-organizing structures that focus on gifts and value hospitality, the welcoming of strangers. It shows how to reweave our social fabric, especially in our neighborhoods. In this way we collectively have enough to create a future that works for all.

Bohm, David On Dialogue. London: Routledge. : 2004.

Never before has there been a greater need for deeper listening and more open communication to cope with the complex problems facing our organizations, businesses and societies. Renowned scientist David Bohm believed there was a better way for humanity to discover meaning and to achieve harmony. He identified creative dialogue, a sharing of assumptions and understanding, as a means by which the individual, and society as a whole, can learn more about themselves and others, and achieve a renewed sense of purpose.

Brown, Juanita. The World Cafe: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter. San Francisco: Barrett-Koehler Publishers, 2005.

The World Cafe’s process has been used by tens of thousands of people around the world to tackle real-life issues. Based on seven key principles, it begins with small, intimate conversations at cafe -style tables; these gatherings then link and build on each other as people move between groups and cross-pollinate ideas. This complete resource explains the Cafe’s concept and provides readers with the tools they need to get started.

Marshall, Ellen Ott. Christians in the Public Square: Faith that Transforms Politics. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2008

Christianity’s chief contribution to America’s civic life resides less in the ideas and positions Christians promote than in the way they go about promoting them.  Debate about our shared life as citizens has always been a vigorous affair in American history. Yet recent years have seen a hardening of positions and a refusal to cross boundaries to cooperate or even understand those with whom we disagree. Not only in the rough and tumble world of political campaigns, but even in the historically more bipartisan world of governance, the American public square has become a fundamentally divided place.

Mouw, Richard J. Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivil World. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992

Can Christians act like Christians even when they disagree? In these wild and diverse times, right and left battle over the airwaves, prolifers square off against prochoicers, gay liberationists confront champions of the traditional family, artists and legislators tangle, even Christians fight other Christians whose doctrines aren’t “just so.” Richard Mouw has been actively forging a model of Christian civil conversation with those we might disagree with—atheists, Muslims, gay activists and more. He is concerned that, too often, Christians have contributed more to the problem than to the solution.

Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, Switzler. Crucial Conversations:  Tools for Talking When Stakes are High.  New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002.

“Crucial” conversations are interpersonal exchanges at work or at home that we dread having but know we cannot avoid. How do you say what needs to be said while avoiding an argument with a boss, child, or relationship partner? Crucial Conversations offers readers a proven seven-point strategy for achieving their goals in all those emotionally, psychologically, or legally charged situations that can arise in their professional and personal lives.

Sacks, Jonathan. The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations. New York: Continuum, 2002.

The year 2001 began as the United Nations Year of Dialogue between Civilizations. By its end, the phrase that came most readily to mind was ‘the clash of civilizations.’ The tragedy of September 11 intensified the danger caused by religious differences around the world. As the politics of identity begin to replace the politics of ideology, can religion become a force for peace? The Dignity of Difference is Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’s radical proposal for reconciling hatreds. The first major statement by a Jewish leader on the ethics of globalization, it also marks a paradigm shift in the approach to religious coexistence. Sacks argues that we must do more than search for values common to all faiths; we must also reframe the way we see our differences.

Volf, Miroslav. Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation.Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996.

Exclusion happens, Volf argues, wherever impenetrable barriers are set up that prevent a creative encounter with the other. It is easy to assume that “exclusion” is the problem or practice of “barbarians” who live “over there,” but Volf persuades us that exclusion is all too often our practice “here” as well. Modern western societies, including American society, typically recite their histories as “narratives of inclusion,” and Volf celebrates the truth in these narratives. But he points out that these narratives conveniently omit certain groups who “disturb the integrity of their ‘happy ending’ plots.” Therefore such narratives of inclusion invite “long and gruesome” counter-narratives of exclusion—the brutal histories of slavery and of the decimation of Native American populations come readily to mind, but more current examples could also be found.

Stone, Patton, Heen. Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most. New York: Hudson Press, 2000.

We attempt or avoid difficult conversations every day-whether dealing with an underperforming employee, disagreeing with a spouse, or negotiating with a client. From the Harvard Negotiation Project, the organization that brought you Getting to Yes, Difficult Conversations provides a step-by-step approach to having those tough conversations with less stress and more success.

Wheatley, Margaret J. Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2009

With this simple declaration, Margaret Wheatley proposes that people band together with their colleagues and friends to create the solutions for real social change, both locally and globally, that are so badly needed. Such change will not come from governments or corporations, she argues, but from the ageless process of thinking together in conversation.



Abundant Community
The website for Peter Block and John McKnight’s book full of resources, tools, articles and ways to connect.

Center for Civil Discourse 
The Center for Civil Discourse is organized around the central principle that open, fair and truthful debate, characterized by respect for opposing viewpoints is essential to a healthy democracy. The Center’s mission is to advance the values of respectful discourse and to call on Americans to embrace civility and reject demagoguery in government, media and our personal lives.

Civil Conversation Project (OnBeing with Krista Tippett)
CCP is a series of radio shows and an online resource for beginning new conversations in families and communities. How do we speak the questions we don’t know how to ask each other? Can we find ways to bridge gulfs between us about politics, morality, and life itself? Can we do that even while we continue to disagree, passionately? How is technology playing into all this, and how can we shape it?

Dialogue Venture with John Backman 
Excellent blog by a longtime writer and associate of an Episcopal monastery.  He writes extensively on contemplative spirituality and its ability to help us dialogue across divides, and is currently working on a book called “Why Can’t We Talk? Living the Way of Dialogue in a Shouting World.”

Public Conversations Project
This respected group of professionals, with specialties in fields from family therapy to anthropology to conflict resolution, helps people and organizations “constructively address conflicts relating to values and worldviews.”

Respectful Conversation: Reflections and Resources from Harold Heie
Heie is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Christian Studies at Gordon College (Wenham, MA).  His website features a tremendous amount of helpful resources, articles, blog posts and he an opportunity to engage in conversation circles – both locally and online.


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