The Listen First Project

Listen First with Graham Bodie

Season 4 Episode 18: Show Notes

Water Cooler HangoutIn today’s episode of The Water Cooler Hangout, we reconnect with Graham Bodie to talk about his work at the Listen First Project, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing people into conversation despite their differences, where he currently serves as the chief listening officer.

Graham is recognized as a highly accomplished international expert on listening, and the social cognitive underpinnings of human communicative behavior, having authored over 90 published papers. His immense productivity has placed him in the top one percent of published Communication Studies scholars.

In our conversation, we talk with Graham about the project’s mission, how it was founded, and what its impact has been. The Listen First Project has had a broad impact, especially in its partnership with the Weave The Social Fabric Project, with whom they have created America Talks, an initiative that hosts events geared towards repairing America’s divides, one conversation at a time.

We hear from Graham about how the America Talks events have helped empower individuals to combat toxic polarization in their everyday lives and what his hopes are for the future. Join us today for a powerful conversation on the power of connection, stories, and much more!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • We welcome back today’s guest Graham Bodie.
  • The Listen First project and how it is helping people connect and engage across political and cultural divides.
  • How the Listen First project was first founded by Pierce Godwin after a mission trip to Africa.
  • Graham shares how he first became involved with the Listen First Project.
  • The America Talks event calendar and how it has been implemented during the COVID 19 pandemic.
  • How Listen First has partnered with other initiatives like the Weave The Social Fabric P
  • How America Talks has been extended to other countries under the label My Country Talks.
  • How America Talks used a series of questions through a widget on their main media partner’s website to help bridge the gap between constituents.
  • Graham shares some of the stories and themes that have come out of their facilitated conversations.
  • Why it is important to have mechanisms in place to ensure that people who are only interested in disruption and antagonism can’t attend the event.
  • Graham shares how he feels the political divide has changed since the start of the COVID 19 pandemic.
  • How America Talks isn’t necessarily focused on differences in race, religion, or political affiliation, but rather on facilitating conversations where you can recognize the humanity of someone very different from you and understand their story.
  • Tips on how to become a ‘bridger’ and how to facilitate interactions in everyday life that are focused on connection.
  • The benefit of their partnership with USA Today due to their mixed readership and its commitment to preventing toxic polarization.
  • How individuals can get involved with addressing toxic polarization.
  • Why a national initiative addressing toxic polarization is dependent on the efficacy and commitment at a local level.


“What we try to do is that we try to develop and implement national campaigns and innovations. That is kind of the rising tide for all of these organizations, again, amplifying, aggregating and aligning all these organizations around a common purpose.” — Graham Bodie [0:07:47]

“Now, if anybody listening, you know, is reticent about entering a conversation virtually, with someone who they never have met before and may never meet again, you’re right to be a little scared. It’s not a normal experience.” — Graham Bodie [0:15:08]

“One thing that we heard and that we read in the comments was the power of these conversations for changing someone’s mindset or perspective about what they can do individually to help solve or, or correct toxic polarization.” — Graham Bodie [0:28:10]

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Graham Bodie
Graham Bodie on LinkedIn
Listen First Project
The Listen First Coalition
Weave The Social Fabric Project
America Talks
My Country Talks
The America Talks National Week of Conversations
USA Today

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