I Never Thought of It That Way: How to Have Fearlessly Curious Conversations in Dangerously Divided Times | Mónica Guzmán
Monica Guzman Social Sciences Reference Women in History Communication & Social Skills Ideologies & Doctrines Dysfunctional Relationships Family Conflict Resolution Conservatism & Liberalism Relationship Conflict Resolution Politics & Government
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"I can see this book helping estranged parties who are equally invested in bridging a gap—it could be assigned reading for fractured families aspiring to a harmonious Thanksgiving dinner." —New York Times
"Like all skills, these techniques take practice. But anyone who sincerely wants to bridge the gaps in understanding will appreciate this book. Guzmán is emphatic about making an effort to work on difficult conversations." —Manhattan Book Review
We think we have the answers, but we need to be asking a lot more questions. Journalist Mónica Guzmán is the loving liberal daughter of Mexican immigrants who voted—twice—for Donald Trump. When the country could no longer see straight across the political divide, Mónica set out to find what was blinding us and discovered the most eye-opening tool we're not using: our own built-in curiosity.
Partisanship is up, trust is down, and our social media feeds make us sure we're right and everyone else is ignorant (or worse). But avoiding one another is hurting our relationships and our society. In this timely, personal guide, Mónica, the chief storyteller for the national cross-partisan depolarization organization Braver Angels, takes you to the real front lines of a crisis that threatens to grind America to a halt—broken conversations among confounded people.
She shows you how to overcome the fear and certainty that surround us to finally do what only seems impossible: understand and even learn from people in your life whose whole worldview is different from or even opposed to yours.
Drawing from cross-partisan conversations she's had, organized, or witnessed everywhere from the echo chambers on social media to the wheat fields in Oregon to raw, unfiltered fights with her own family on election night, Mónica shows how you can put your natural sense of wonder to work for you immediately, finding the answers you need by talking with people—rather than about them—and asking the questions you want, curiously.
In these pages, you'll learn:
* How to ask what you really want to know (even if you're afraid to)
* How to grow smarter from even the most tense interactions, online or off
* How to cross boundaries and find common ground—with anyone
Whether you're left, right, center, or not a fan of labels: If you're ready to fight back against the confusion, heartbreak, and madness of our dangerously divided times—in your own life, at least—Mónica's got the tools and fresh, surprising insights to prove that seeing where people are coming from isn't just possible. It's easier than you think.
“The book’s greatest offering, I think, is permission to reclaim people we might have dumped for ideological reasons; such connections won’t sully us but may in fact enrich us. I can see this book helping estranged parties who are equally invested in bridging a gap—it could be assigned reading for fractured families aspiring to a harmonious Thanksgiving dinner.”
—New York Times
“Like all skills, these techniques take practice. But anyone who sincerely wants to bridge the gaps in understanding will appreciate this book. Guzmán is emphatic about making an effort to work on difficult conversations.”
—Manhattan Book Review
“In clear and lively exposition Mónica Guzmán lays out how we have become unlikely and increasingly not interested in talking to people with whom we don’t agree . . . We need to return to our basic curiosity about what other people think and feel. That’s our most human, most empathic, starting point.”
—Sherry Turkle, MIT Professor, New York Times best-selling author of Reclaiming Conversation and The Empathy Diaries
“Mónica’s love of personal connection underpins this gentle, persuasive guide to better communication. The lessons of this book will improve all your personal and professional relationships, guaranteed, and might even save America from its own ideological divides.”
—Markos Moulitsas, founder of Daily Kos
“I Never Thought of it That Way shows us how we can change and redirect those. Guzman’s tools for understanding without judgement and for being curious are precisely the ones we need to build a bridge over the chasm.”
—Bill Bryant, former WA Republican gubernatorial candidate
"Everyone is losing their minds, but good news—Mónica Guzmán can help us find them again. Whether you're left, right, center, or you have had it with the tribes and labels, this book is your map out of the madness. All it takes is a few questions and the common sense courage to see people as people, not monsters."
—Bridget Phetasy, writer, stand-up comedian, and host of the YouTube program Dumpster Fire and podcast Walk-Ins Welcome
“Mónica Guzmán invites wonder into the gulfs that divide us—a revolutionary kind of wonder that beckons us to listen beyond soundbites and slogans to the stories that carry our shared humanity. I Never Thought of It That Way is an accessible and practical guide for how to imagine a future that leaves no one behind.”
—Valarie Kaur, author of See No Stranger and founder of the Revolutionary Love Project
“This beautifully crafted narrative takes you inside the most vexing political divisions and makes them not only seem understandable, but leaves you with even more empathy for the other side. Readers will appreciate the depth of connections Guzmán created with her subjects, and even more so the book’s many excellent recommendations about how to begin to repair our national divide.”
—Dr. Christopher Bail, head of the Polarization Lab at Duke, and the author of Breaking the Social Media Prism
“Lots of books explain how to have hard conversations about politics, but this is the one you need to read—right now. It's honest, funny, surprising and actionable. Take it to the beach, bring it on the bus. Hand it out at family reunions; leave it in your office cafeteria. There's no time to waste.”
—Amanda Ripley, author of High Conflict
“This book will inspire you and warm your heart. It’s our best book on this topic. With great wisdom, Monica teaches us the skills to become better people and more patriotic Americans.”
—David Blankenhorn, cofounder and president of Braver Angels
“At a time when Americans feel overwhelmed with toxic polarization, Mónica Guzmán gives us a book we desperately need. In I Never Thought of It That Way, she elucidates the transformational power of curiosity, coupled with empathy, to change hearts and shows us practical ways to adopt these vital principles for the sake of a more perfect union.”
—Nathan Bomey, author of Bridge Builders
“In this warm and thoughtful book, Mónica Guzmán offers a wonderfully simple recipe to heal our partisan divide: curiosity and conversation. We should all give her approach a try.”
—Bill Adair, creator of PolitiFact
“This beautifully written book delivers a challenge wrapped in compassion for how hard it is to be curious and open-minded when we 'know" we are right! By being inspiring and intensely practical, Monica Guzman has written an essential guide for living in a pluralistic democracy."
—William Doherty, PhD, professor at the University of Minnesota and cofounder of Braver Angels
“In this perceptive, wise, accessible book, Guzmán shows us how to ask more humane questions of our fellow Americans. She shows us that by seeking truly to understand rather than judge, every one of us can improve our country's civic culture. Curiosity cures.”
—Eric Liu, CEO, Citizen University and author of You’re More Powerful Than You Think
“If you sense something ‘wrong’ in the way we've come to interact, Mónica Guzmán shows that you're right—and offers actionable guidance on creating change . . . This book guides more than new ways of bridging divides. It sparks a curious, higher-level way of thinking that supports healthier thoughts, emotions, relationships, and decisions.”
—Ellen Petry Leanse, Stanford University Instructor, leadership coach, and author of the best-seller The Happiness Hack
"Mónica Guzmán offers us a practical guide for a path forward: reclaiming an appreciation of the basic humanity of our fellow citizens, and remaining open to the possibility that we may be able to learn from people we differ from. Anyone who cares about healing our national conversation should read this book.”
—Alexandra Hudson, author, speaker, and founder of Civic Renaissance
“There aren't many books you can pick up and instantly apply to every difficult and frustrating conversation you're having in life, but that's exactly what Mónica Guzmán has given us with this brilliant, approachable, and enjoyable book.”
—Buster Benson, author of Why Are We Yelling?
“Mónica Guzmán does a masterful job of acknowledging and grappling with the immensity of our divides, while also offering hope and an actionable roadmap for building bridges across those divides. This is a clear-eyed and refreshing read.”
—Annafi Wahed, founder of The Flip Side
"I Never Thought of it That Way is a critical read for critical times . . . We need to ask ourselves, ‘What am I missing?’ And we need to be willing to go where the answers lead us, divisions be damned. It is difficult, it is disruptive, it may even be dangerous, but curiosity is how we can undivide.”
—Angel Eduardo, cultural commentator and writer for Idealist.org, Center for Inquiry, and the Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism (FAIR)
“A treasure trove of proven tips to ward off toxic polarization in our everyday lives. This book is a gift for Americans hoping to rise above division and unlock the riches of conversation and relationships across differences.”
—Pearce Godwin, Founder of Listen First Project and the #ListenFirst Coalition
“Mónica Guzmán has authored a tour de force that takes the reader deep into the reasons we are polarized, gives life to these reasons through profound illustrations of compelling human stories, and uses her own fascinating life and career to illuminate our shared path forward towards a democracy of conviction, compassion and curiosity.”
—John Wood, Jr., National Ambassador for Braver Angels
“The question of how we can heal as a nation is the question of our time. In I Never Thought of it That Way Mónica Guzmán has given us the tools for the only way I can see that happening: if we the people do it ourselves. I cannot imagine anyone who will not learn from and rejoice in this book.”
—Tom Rosenstiel, Eleanor Merrill Visiting Professor on the Future of Journalism at the University of Maryland
"What America needs are more good questions and fewer simple answers. And whether left or right, blue or red, or abandoned in the middle, what we all need is I Never Thought of It That Way."
—Adrienne Ross Scanlan, staff reviewer at the New York Journal of Books
"If you’re looking for ways to find understanding and empathy with others, I highly recommend [I Never Thought of It That Way]. It conveys a lot of useful information in a light conversational style and shuns psychological and philosophical jargon."
—Jim Heffernan, Editor of the Tillamook County Pioneer
“Mónica Guzmán's latest book is unashamedly and fearlessly personal. It is also socially responsible, widely relevant, and a glimpse of what is possible when listening takes the place of dismissing people and positions where the ideological gap is too wide and the distance too far to see each other. Presenting authentic experiences, interviews, and data, Guzmán builds the case for using available tools of the mind that are within reach, and that almost anyone could offer in divided times and circumstances.”
—Elizabeth Morley, Principal of The Laboratory School at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study, University of Toronto
“I especially liked [Guzman's] “four things to try” formulation centered on: getting hypothetical, presenting the strongest argument for the other side, acknowledging your own attachments, and assuming absolutely nothing. As Guzman illustrates by interactions with her own strong-willed family and work colleagues, listening can challenging, hearing even harder.”
—Larry Gennari, transactional lawyer, law professor, and chief curator for the Authors & Innovators festival
About the Author
Mónica Guzmán is a bridge builder, journalist, and entrepreneur who lives for great conversations sparked by curious questions. She’s senior fellow for public practice at Braver Angels, the nation’s largest cross-partisan grassroots organization working to depolarize America; host of live interview series at Crosscut; and cofounder of the award-winning Seattle newsletter The Evergrey. She was a 2019 fellow at the Henry M. Jackson Foundation, where she studied social and political division, and a 2016 fellow at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, where she researched how journalists can rethink their roles to better meet the needs of a participatory public. She was named one of the 50 most influential women in Seattle, served twice as a juror for the Pulitzer Prizes, and plays a barbarian named Shadrack in her besties' Dungeons & Dragons campaign. A Mexican immigrant, Latina, and dual US/Mexico citizen, she lives in Seattle with her husband and two kids and is the proud liberal daughter of conservative parents.