One Small Step
By Amy Ferguson

“I had no idea you were genuinely interested in what I had to say.” Jenn Stanley is a self-described liberal. Her father, Peter Stanley, votes Republican. Over time, a deepening chasm between them made it difficult to talk about the things they care about—until they sat down to try and listen to each other’s points of view.

Family Politics, a StoryCorps animation of their conversation is part of One Small Step, a new national effort designed to encourage people to engage in a conversation with someone they may not agree with politically.

Ground Rules
A One Small Step conversation is not about arguing a political position or changing minds. There are actually a few basic rules.

Don’t: Raise your voice, name call, or interrupt your interview partner.

Do: Listen. Remember, listening is not about being quiet—it’s about being present and curious.

Remember: This is a two-way conversation. Be prepared to ask, as well as answer, questions. Try not to debate political issues. It’s not about arguing a position. It’s about getting to know someone you might have thought you had nothing in common with.

One Small Step aims to remind us that we have more in common than what divides us and that treating those with whom we disagree with decency and respect is essential to a functioning democracy.

In addition to some basic ground rules, StoryCorps, as always, has a handy series of questions for you and your conversation partner.

Ask questions like:

  • Why did you agree to do this interview today?
  • Can you tell me a story about the first time you remember being aware of politics?
  • Who has been the most influential person in your life? What did they teach you?
  • Can you tell me a story about any lessons you learned from your parents? How does that shape how you see the world today?
  • How have your political views changed over time? Was there something specific that made you change?


…then move on to questions like:

  • Do you feel misunderstood by people who have different beliefs than you? How so?
  • What is it that people say about you that is most painful?
  • Is there someone whom you disagree with but still respect? If so, why?
  • When you think about the future, what are you most scared of?


Closing questions:

  • What were your expectations coming into this conversation, and did they change?
  • What is the one thing you respect about the way I see the world?
  • Is there anything you’ve learned from our conversation?
  • Is there anything that surprised you during the conversation?
  • Do you have any regrets?
  • What are you proudest of?

With One Small Step, StoryCorps is seeking to counteract intensifying political divides, by facilitating and recording conversations that enable people who disagree to listen to each other with respect. So, think about it—maybe there’s a One Small Step conversation you can have. Here’s a link to tips you can share and print.

And maybe you’ll consider going one step further and recording your conversation. Anyone with a smartphone can record an interview with the StoryCorps App. StoryCorps recommends use of the app in conversations with someone you know, noting it is not suited for conversations between strangers. The StoryCorps App is available on iOS, Android devices and on Kindle.