Fewer Debates, More Dunk Tanks (Priya Parker)

Show Description

How we gather matters. A lot. And what is a nation but a big ol’ gathering of gatherings? Baratunde talks with Priya Parker, facilitator and author of The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters, about how we can use gatherings as a tool for strengthening our relationships by doing things together that invoke joy and have meaning. Listen till the end to hear Priya answer a listener’s pressing question during the live taping.

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Show Transcript

Priya Parker  0:01

Part of citizenship and part of gathering with a small "g" is that all of us, whether we're guests or hosts, are participating one beat at a time in whatever might be happening. And all I'm saying is wake up and decide what you want to attend and what you don't want to attend. And when you're thinking about being a host, think very deeply about what it is you're bringing together because whatever you're doing will spread.

Baratunde Thurston  0:28

Welcome to How To Citizen with Baratunde, a podcast that reimagines citizen as a verb, not a legal status. This season is all about how we practice democracy. What can we get rid of? What can we invent? And how do we change the culture of democracy itself? Relieving the theoretical clouds and hitting the ground with inspiring examples of people and institutions that are showing us new ways to govern ourselves.

Over the years, I've attended several Democratic National Conventions. I'm talking Boston, North Carolina, Philadelphia, and Denver; but the best one, and really one of the most memorable political gatherings I've attended, it happened online during the COVID lockdown of 2020. Now at every major political convention, there's this ceremonial counting of the delegates where people from different states stand up with their little flags on the floor of the convention hall and say something like, "The people of the great state of Hawaii nominate, yada, yada, yada, yada." But we obviously couldn't do that In 2020. Instead of cutting it though, the organizers ask people to film themselves doing the roll call in front of something iconic that represented their home.

DNC: Host  1:42

It's time to begin our virtual trip around America: Alaska.

DNC: Alaska Rep  1:47

We must elect the President who will respect our voices, protect our waters, and address climate change. Alaska casts seven votes of Bernie Sanders and 12 votes for the next president, Joe Biden.

DNC: Host  1:59

North Carolina.

DNC: North Carolina Rep  2:01

I've been doing this for a long time, so let me just be plain: Black people, especially Black women, are the backbone of this party. And if we don't show up, Democrats don't get elected. North Carolina casts 39 votes for Bernie Sanders and 83 votes for the next president of the United States, Joe Biden.

DNC: Host  2:22


DNC: Maine Rep  2:23

My American Dream? I'm living it. A 25-acre organic farm on the lake, a roadside farm stand, and a bed and breakfast. My husband and I aren't corporate tycoons. We just want to make an honest living.

DNC: Host  2:35

The U.S. Virgin Islands.

DNC: The U.S. Virgin Islands Rep  2:36

We bring you greetings from the Virgin Islands of the United States. Yes! Where a young Alexander Hamilton was raised. We cast our 13 votes for Joseph R. Biden. Yes!

Baratunde Thurston  2:49

This digital parade of delegates was a beautiful reflection of who we are because we got to see each other in our context. And I remember saying to anyone who would listen like, "That is the mirror of America I want to see." That looks like us. It felt like true storytelling, not just political pandering. Of course there's always going to be some political pandering, but I think they produced the hell out of that gathering, which had the potential to feel disconnected, awkward, and useless, and instead left me emotional and motivated.

I think a really fundamental premise of our democracy is that we come together to figure things out. And we do it in a way that's non-violent, that serves as many people as possible, as best as possible so we can all move forward.I think it's pretty non-controversial to say we are not doing great at that. In many levels of our society, the way Congress operates is whack. Local school board meetings, they're violent or nearly violent. And online discourse? I mean, I don't even have to explain that one, do I? From the political to the petty, which is sometimes the same thing, we have proven that we're out of practice at coming together meaningfully, effectively, or at all. And it's weakening our ability to self-govern.

When we don't know how to listen or have a shared purpose when we gather, when we don't know how to interact with each other, it shows up everywhere. Think of it like this. If we don't know how to host a meaningful birthday party, how are we going to handle a council meeting? Look, we have a gathering crisis. And my friend Priya Parker, she's dedicated her life to addressing it. In her book, The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters, Priya shares practical guidance for creating relevance, meaning, and connection when we come together. Rethinking and re-imagining the ways we spend time together, it's essential to improving the way we practice democracy and to the way we citizen.

While our previous guest, Tim Phillips, gave us a sense of how dangerous the growing political divide is in our country, Priya is giving us the tools to start addressing that tension and disconnection in our own communities. She's a facilitator and strategic advisor. And like Tim, she's trained in the field of conflict resolution. She has spent the last 20 years guiding leaders and groups through complicated conversations about community identity and vision in moments of transition,

I first met Priya and her husband, the writer Anand Giridharadas, before they were husband and wife. Back in Paris over a decade ago, Anand was speaking at a museum and I was there as part of a delegation of young civic minded Americans touring through Europe. Anand and Priya were the only other young people in the room, so we were all like, "Yo! Americans! Young people. Brown people. Yay!" It was super exciting and a sea of really old art loving white French faces. They ended up joining our tour. The three of us traveled together a lot more from there. We quickly realized we had a lot in common.

During that time, I had the opportunity to attend many of their gatherings, from neighborhood walking tours Priya became known for, to their wedding in India, where by the way, I did a great standup comedy set. It was super funny. There's no tapes here, you're just going to have to trust me. Anyway, I can't count the number of times I've had dinner at their place, met fascinating folks, and left feeling full both intellectually and gastrointestinally.

So Priya has been practicing what she preaches even before most of us knew she was preaching it. As I think on this entire season, Priya is answering a question posed by an earlier guest, Jon Alexander, who asked, "How do we invoke citizenship as practice?" And I think Priya answers with some really valuable, tangible tools for us to get out of our rut and try new things and challenge old assumptions about how we show up in citizen together.

After the break, Priya Parker on how gatherings are about people, not logistics. Priya Parker is a facilitator, acclaimed author of The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters, and executive producer and host of the New York Times podcast Together Apart. We have been a part of each other's lives for over a decade. I got to see her becoming the queen of gathering through a small series of intimate friend events that she did in New York City called I Am Here Day. And this was an intentional exploration of a neighborhood all day long and it was mind-blowing. It really changed my relationship with other people that I knew. It changed my relationship with New York City. She's had a huge positive impact on my life professionally and personally, and it is a thrill to have her here. Welcome, Priya Parker.

Priya Parker  8:02

Thank you, Baratunde. What a treat. What a thrill. You are the master of many things, but one of them is openings and introductions and I feel really touched. I'm so happy to be with you.

Baratunde Thurston  8:12

Yes. So Priya, look, you're somebody who really knows how to host. Let me know if you have notes for me later.

Priya Parker  8:19

Taking copious notes.

Baratunde Thurston  8:22

But your work has helped people move away from this idea of gatherings as exercises in logistics, things to coordinate, to putting the focus on relationships. Can you just talk about that important shift from the logistics focus to the relationship focus?

Priya Parker  8:40

I, as you know, am a group conflict resolution facilitator. That's my training. That's still my day job. And so much of what I learned with my peers as we were young green facilitators is we were trained to basically think about how to bring a group of people around a specific need and kind of get them off their scripts. Figure out how do you help people meaningfully connect without all having to be the same. How do you help people meaningfully connect despite sometimes because of their differences? So much of what I was trained to do very kind of minute by minute, how do you actually set up questions? How do you set up the space so that people feel protected, not so overwhelmed by a space, but also not excluded had very little to do with what we're taught in popular culture about what makes, for example, a good dinner party or a good baby shower or basically-

Baratunde Thurston  9:51

A really nice silverware, I think.

Priya Parker  9:52

Yeah, paint the onesies and then the baby will come. Whatever... But this very deep focus on stuff. I often say if you go to a bookstore, you walk into a library and you look for kind of the gathering section, you'll go and you read a lot of cookbooks or flower shaping skills. It's not that those things don't matter, they absolutely do. They are incredible skills on their own. But over time we've conflated the shaping of things with the shaping of people. I love food as much as the next person. I love a beautiful space as much as the next person. But how do you basically put people back at the center of our interactions? And how do you think about designing interactions that help people feel like they belong, but they also aren't disappearing?

Baratunde Thurston  10:45

You mentioned the goal of getting people off their scripts. Why that? What is the danger or the risk of letting people stay attached to their script and what does it mean to knock them off of that routine?

Priya Parker  10:57

Scripts serve us in certain ways. We are taught how to professionally introduce ourselves. Different cultures have different scripts. I went to the University of Virginia and I learned very quickly that one of the first things people ask you is what are you and I had to learn very quickly my answer to that question, right?

Baratunde Thurston  11:13


Priya Parker  11:13

So all of that to say is in so many of our modern life where we're meeting people we don't necessarily know, this kind of corporate culture or entrepreneurship culture of the pitch has infiltrated friendship, has infiltrated community, has infiltrated dinner parties. My husband grew up in Europe for some part of his life. I lived in different countries because of my parents' work. If you go to most other... It's changing, but most other countries, if you have dinner, multi-generational dinner in anyone's home, you can leave after 12 hours and you've no idea what anyone does for a living, right? It's a deeply-

Baratunde Thurston  11:50

Yes. I had a-

Priya Parker  11:51


Baratunde Thurston  11:51

I had a direct experience of that in Europe this summer, bonding, connecting, no idea what people do for work. Whereas a brunch recently in California, I felt like the person assumed I was an investor and we're just like, "These are my growth targets. And look at, we opened up these many locations." And I'm like, "Hi, what's your name again?"

Priya Parker  12:11

Yes. It's like the self launch, right?

Baratunde Thurston  12:13

Yeah. Yeah. Okay.

Priya Parker  12:15

And so part of a script is scripts help people know how to navigate an uncertain situation. They're not bad necessarily, but part of what we were taught in conflict resolution was that often moments of authenticity and connection happened when people got off their scripts, when they say the thing they weren't planning on saying, when they're not representing their institution, when they give their sprout speeches rather than their stump speeches. Those were the moments in which all of a sudden, again, as a dialogue facilitator that's trying to shift the relationship in the room, those were the moments of light. Those are the moments where people stop being a monolith.

Baratunde Thurston  12:56

I think you have developed many kind of shorthand and quick rules for anyone to think about in terms of any gathering that they're considering. A birthday party, which should be pretty simple. Can you quickly give us some of Priya's hacks on the questions we should be asking how you might prepare your own?

Priya Parker  13:15

Absolutely. The down and dirty. Everyone can just fast-forward to this part of the podcast. Step number one. So the first is, the biggest mistake we make when we gather is we assume that the purpose is obvious and shared. "Oh, I know what a birthday party is. Oh, I know what a staff meeting is." And also in so doing, we skip actually asking "What is the purpose?" And we get too quickly to perfecting form.

Baratunde Thurston  13:44

Which is almost the same as focusing on the stuff in a logistics over the people.

Priya Parker  13:48

Exactly. Exactly.

Baratunde Thurston  13:50

Yeah. Okay.

Priya Parker  13:50

And so the first thing to become a more artful gatherer and I think a more artful citizen... See what I did there?

Baratunde Thurston  13:57

I felt the wink. I felt the wink, yes.

Priya Parker  13:59

Is to determine and to actually ask "What is the need here? What is the need in this community at this moment? What is the need when I'm 32 versus 42 versus 82? And who are the people in my life that might be able to address that need this year?" And then figure out the form. Don't start with logistics. And instead of asking, "Should I throw a party?" First ask, "Am I lonely? Am I bored? Do I need to shake things up a bit? Am I kind of disillusioned with my normal friend gang?" It's actually the art of paying attention. "What is happening here?" And gatherings are kind of these excuses to make us make decisions about how we spend our time and with whom.

So I'll give a simple example. Years ago I had a friend who turned 50 and he said to me, I'm not really a birthday person positively or negatively. I've never worried about aging. It's not a huge deal to me, but 50 is feeling a lot and I want to do something. He said his wife kind of helped him think about it, "Why are you so anxious about this age, turning this age?" And he thought about it and he said, "I think a lot of people in my life I've watched as they turned 50 many people basically start contracting. They take less risks. They don't move to the same cities that they would've, and I'm kind of terrified by that. And yet there are some people I know who even when they turn 50 or 60 or 70 continued to expand. What if I threw a weekend or a dinner where I invited the people in my life who have always represented expansion?"

So what he did, first of all, he paused first and didn't say, "What form should this birthday be in?" He just paused. The first step of actually artful gathering is looking in. Then the second thing is he then found a specific disputable need. It's really specific and disputable. You're only going to invite the people who expand in your life? What are you going to say to the people who contract? It's like, "Sorry."

Baratunde Thurston  16:09

Yeah. Especially if you're married to them. That's awkward.

Priya Parker  16:11

Exactly. Well, in part, I said this earlier, gatherings often force us to face ourselves. This is why weddings are often sights of conflict. This is why funerals are sights of conflict because gathering is an act of line drawing. "What is this about? Who is this for? And who should be here?"

Baratunde Thurston  16:29

And who should not be here?

Priya Parker  16:30

And who should not be here? I'll just say the third tip is artful gatherers as hosts or guests are really good at meaning making, and meaning making often at the beginning of an event or a gathering in the invitation, but also when they arrive. So just to close the story, at the beginning of this birthday weekends, birthday dinner, he dang his glass as he recalled it to me and he said, "I realized I was terrified turning 50. And I realized what I just told you earlier. Each of you sitting around this table to me have been examples and beacons of adventure and expansion and people who I always look to when I think about the decisions I want to make, 'What would they do?' And as I turn 50, I want to thank you for showing me that there's many ways to do this. And I want to ask you to keep me honest in those moments where I want to contract."

Baratunde Thurston  17:27

Yeah. Wow.

Priya Parker  17:28

Welcome. 30 seconds, he's changed the whole thing. He's switched-

Baratunde Thurston  17:34

I feel changed just hearing it because it's not just that he had a purpose, he made it clear to them and then they feel a sense of ownership of it.

Priya Parker  17:41

And honoring.

Baratunde Thurston  17:42

And you feel, "Yeah, you chose me not just to be at your party, but for this thing that I do do for you," which is its own gift. The acknowledgement of the gifts of others.

Priya Parker  17:52

He moved from the category that many of us can fall into of using them, right? Gatherings can also be kind of transactional. I have an art museum launch, "Get bodies in the room. We got to get-"

Baratunde Thurston  18:06

Yeah. "And who's got a lot of followers on social that might post about my art?"

Priya Parker  18:09

Yeah, exactly. Like, "Get them there. Get them there." So he moved from using them. It's a very subtle shift to making them of use in the deepest sense of that word. I often say gathering is culture making. They are going to remember that for the rest of their lives. They are going to remember, "Wow, that's the way he thinks of me." When they start thinking about decisions, "Am I contracting or am I expanding? Do I choose..." Right? This is the way we gather reflects our norms, our beliefs. And so often, positive or negative, Trump rallies are great gatherings. They are full of purpose and specificity and boundary and emotion and ritual and symbol. And their lines, like watching shows the circus and watching the lines outside of a Trump rally versus outside of a democratic contender rally, there is a fundamentally different ritualistic experience going on. Gatherings are morally neutral. And they spread values. That's all. Whatever the values are, they're spreading them.

Baratunde Thurston  19:17

How does that work if the gathering itself has kind of harm associated with it or if it can lead to harm? Can you just clarify where morality sits in terms of not all gatherings are made equal in terms of the impact they can have on folks?

Priya Parker  19:31

The tool is morally neutral and it can be used for generative health and it can be used for deep harm. Hitler is one of the greatest gatherers in history.

Baratunde Thurston  19:47

Yeah. So it's a technology in that sense too.

Priya Parker  19:51

It's a technology. And I'm saying this in part because people often associate like, "Oh, gathering's sweet. Oh, gathering's fun. Oh, gatherings-"

Baratunde Thurston  19:56

It's a nice sounding word.

Priya Parker  19:58

It's a nice sounding word. And in part, it's like don't be fooled, right? Don't be fooled by the rocks that I got.

Baratunde Thurston  20:05

Okay, Jenny.

Priya Parker  20:07

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. This is when you can see we're actually friends. My terrible, terrible 1993 references are coming out. So often, either we undervalue what this is, "Oh, it's just a baby shower." Well, because somebody thought it was a sweet idea at some point and they're trying to literally figure out what to do in terms of the activity, decided it could be fun to focus on the moment of gender revelation, literally, if you look at this history of this new phenomenon, it was like, "How do I feel this time? Where is there an unexpected outcome? What would be interesting to this group?" And then over time, in some places it's been co-opted or it's become problematic to assume or even to think like, "Why is all of the things that we're doing over the course of these two hours focusing on revealing their gender?"

Baratunde Thurston  21:01

Yeah. And again, if I look at that example, you're celebrating a life, you're welcoming someone into the family. Is your primary purpose really the inform information of communicating the gender of the child?

Priya Parker  21:13

Exactly. And it rarely starts like that. That did not start on a need-based analysis.

Baratunde Thurston  21:19

Exactly. And it became focused on the form.

Priya Parker  21:20

Yes, exactly.

Baratunde Thurston  21:20

It became focused on smoke colors and all this other distraction.

Priya Parker  21:26

And so often I love the example of a baby shower in part because it's that kind of Trojan Horse where it's like, "Oh, this sweet little thing." Actually, these are moments of norm formation. And so slightly shifting that. I have a friend who for her... She and her partner did not want to have a baby shower traditionally in mind, but she realized she did have a need. And as she paused, she thought, "Okay, I have these two needs. One, I'm terrified of labor. And two, neither me or my partner want to raise our children mostly how we saw our parents raise us. What do we do?" And so they ended up having two gatherings. One was she gathered six female friends who had been through the process of birth and they created a little ritual. She asked one of our friends to do it. The friend invited all of us to bring a quality and a story of our friend that we believed would also serve her in labor. Courage. Resilience. Humor. "I remember this time when we were blah, blah, blah," and you're like, "I gift you humor."

And then the second thing they did is they invited... "Who are we inviting? What is it a political act? Why are women the only people invited to baby showers if we're expecting and asking for men to also co-parent? Where do the roles start from the very beginning before the kid's even here? Who actually needs this knowledge?" So they invited both men and women to share a story from their life of one way that they were raised that they loved and one thing in their own life that they would want to let go of. They had this beautiful dinner and everyone understood the purpose and they could choose if they wanted to come and share that kind of thing or not. You can totally not come.

But again, it's like movings to being used to being of use. And every other person at that dinner table I promise you was listening very closely. "Huh. how might I want to raise my kids? What are the norms? What are they expect? What language are we using to talk about this?" And part of citizenship and part of gathering with a small "g" is that all of us, whether we're guests or hosts, are participating one beat at a time in whatever might be happening. And all I'm saying is wake up and decide what you want to attend and what you don't want to attend and show up in the ways you want to in you're a guest. And when you're thinking about being a host, think very deeply about what it is you're bringing together because whatever you're doing will spread.

Baratunde Thurston  23:58

Wake up. I'm fully awake, Priya, and I'm remembering... I mean, I have a big fandom for you as well as for Krista Tippett On Being. I remember hearing your conversation with her and you said something very close to the following, that gathering is a political act with a small "p". I like how you lowercase the letters. And that anytime we're bringing together three or more people, even works with groups of two, there are these power dynamics that exist in those relationships and in those groups. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's an opportunity for generous authority to use your power as the host for the good of the group to achieve its purpose.

Priya Parker  24:37

And coming back to first principles, when I say that gathering is a political act, small "p", what I mean about that is it is a context in which power is up for contestation. This is true anytime people come together, but particularly I define a gathering as anytime three or more people come together for a purpose, with a beginning, middle, and end.

So take something super simple, a book club. A book club is a wonderful example of these core questions. What is this for? Is it to see each other and have an excuse to come together and the book's kind of on the side, and like, I really like having kombucha or tea? Or is this fundamentally to make us more informed environmentalists? Or is this fundamentally to shift the patterns away from hanging out at the bar and substitute it for something else? The second thing is book clubs, when I say decision making, "Oh, is one person facilitating conversation? Is it a free for all? Are we going to talk about chapter 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6?" And you can kind of see, I mean I love book clubs as cultural examples because they sound really sweet. And book clubs are full of drama.

Baratunde Thurston  25:52


Priya Parker  25:52

"So-and-so always talks over everyone else. Well, how come they come? They haven't read the entire book. Well, are you actually reading the book? How come she always gets to choose the one? How come they always get to decide whether this is fiction or non-fiction? We're reading too much." Right? And so I use it in part because they're not loaded in baggaged contexts, but they're wonderful examples of in any group, a group or a gathering has to decide or fall into "How do we actually share time?" Every time people come together, you're kind of deciding, "Who has airtime? What are we actually talking about?"

Baratunde Thurston  26:21 

And that's a question of power.

Priya Parker  26:23

Shorthand for power in a gathering context is decision making. What's the agenda? Who's at the table? Every single time we come together, it's actually a navigation between people about how you're going to spend their time. It's the role of the host to basically enforce the reasons that we're there. And there's lots of ways to do it, but gathering is a political, small P, political act, which is people have to coordinate how to be. And then when they go off the rails, how are you going to reinforce and get people back on track?

Baratunde Thurston  26:53

For me, that's a great transition to a different type of gathering of democracy, this vaguely defined project for many of us. But follow me on this train.It starts again with something you've written that 90% of what makes a gathering successful is put in place beforehand. When I think about some of our rituals around practicing democracy, preparation is required. Going into the voting booth prepared, much more helpful than just showing up cold, trying to figure it out. And when we define citizen as a verb here, it's like understanding your power, investing in relationships, showing up and participating, valuing the collective. That all has some preparation baked into it. How do we apply this preparatory guidance around gathering to approach the ways we come together for more explicitly civic purposes? So past baby showers and birthday parties, we need gatherings for our democracy to literally function. I'm thinking about school board meetings, some of which have gone way off the rails in so many of our experiences. What can we take from your experience and knowledge of gathering to apply to these critical infrastructure functions of our sometimes flailing democracy?

Priya Parker  28:11

I mean, the first thing is, I don't think of this as a binary, that there are civic gatherings and non-civic gatherings. And so often part of civic life, I'll get to school boards, but the school board, when I say it's not binary, part of the reason these school boards are falling apart is in part because... Well, a lot of different reasons, but in part because we have fundamentally different norms and values and understandings of what's actually happening in our culture. More and more in our baby showers and in our birthday parties, we are lacking bridging infrastructure. So sociologically, there's groups that have bridging, meaning you have a Republican and a Democrat, you have a Yankees fan and a Red Sox. We will go to dinner together. It's okay, we'll put our baseball politics aside. And then there's bonding, which is sort of like and like. Basically over the last 50 years in the US at least, our bridging infrastructure has collapsed. And it's in part because our social and public infrastructure has collapsed. The privatization of everything has also led us to having more inequality and also having less civic shared spaces in which people who have difference spend time together.

And so the first thing I would say is when we think about our civic life, one of the underlying purposes or needs in perhaps all of your gatherings is to really think about this larger project, which is, "Who am I inviting and how do I make space for people who aren't exactly like me?" And in conflict resolution, one of my mentors is a man named Harold Saunders. He trained my peers and I in this very specific process called Sustained Dialogue. You bring people together, you talk very explicitly about your backgrounds, but he would say to us always, "Don't become sustained dialogues salespeople." So often what we actually need is shared experiences where we're literally talking less. Dialogue is one form of communication. Sometimes it's incredibly helpful. And sometimes there are so many landmines that actually what you need to remember is that there's other ways to be.

I'll give one more example. A woman wrote to me recently about her church. It's a small church in North Carolina. She basically wrote to me and she said, "Many churches in this country have been doing a lot of missing of each other. We haven't actually gathered to congregate in over two years in person, so we've literally missed each other. And then the racial uprising has revealed fishers within our church that we didn't know were there. And it is fundamentally getting down to our core beliefs about the Bible, our core beliefs about how we come to know what we know. It is as existential as it can get. Well what do we do?" And I said, "Well, what do you think is the first deepest need in this community right now?" And she said, "People are so deeply in their camps and there's so much distrust that I think we need to remember why we enjoyed each other in the first place. We kind of need to grow the love." And so she threw a parking lot party. She convinced her board to rent a dunk tank and the core of the parking lot party was dunk the deacon.

Baratunde Thurston  31:31


Priya Parker  31:31


Baratunde Thurston  31:32

And we can all come together around that.

Priya Parker  31:33

Yeah, exactly. It's like, "Just throw that ball!" I love this example so much in part because again, even then you think like, "Okay, the preconceived form of a church that's in conflict is we need to come together and stare at each other and talk about the most important parts of Christian theology," right? It's so easy-

Baratunde Thurston  31:54

No, it's too-

Priya Parker  31:54

To get into the... Yes.

Baratunde Thurston  31:54

And it's so on the nose to, "We have a problem. We should come and talk about our problem."

Priya Parker  31:57


Baratunde Thurston  31:57

Words. Words. Words.

Priya Parker  31:58

Yeah. And sometimes that's why it's like, "Look, part of what this woman's doing is she was paying attention and really looking at it." It's almost like reading a body and trying to figure out "Where is this unhealthy?" Part of what I love about this was she then... I taught her how to go and she said it was so fun and people kind of came and the arms were kind of crossed. Not everyone came, but there was the band, the cover songs. It gave people something to do. It was in the parking lot. Also very interesting, the location of a gathering matters. It wasn't an inside the church, but it also wasn't at some fancy venue where people could be like, "This is what we're spending our money on?", right? She defended the purpose of the dunk tank and the purchase of it or the rental of it. And then later she said, "So many people, the ways their bodies looked after, literally their body language, as they left, it was like there was some relief." And so I can't tell you how many people told me, "Wow, I needed this."

Baratunde Thurston  32:56

So needs discovered, needs found, and also needs met. It's a non-linear approach to some of the challenges we're facing into and maybe the best gathering isn't a debate or a dialogue, but it's a dunk tank. I experienced this with the America Outdoors show I made, which allowed me to experience the country and all this difference on literally different terms, different ground. "Oh, we're kayaking together." We're in the same boat. Very different from being on the same dais.

Priya Parker  33:28


Baratunde Thurston  33:29

With a card in front of me labeling me this and labeling me that. The idea that shared experiences can be the foundation on which we build more productive dialogue, it's a precursor, right? It's sort of a prerequisite. And that you can shift the energy between people, again, by uniting them in dunking their deacon.

Priya Parker  33:48

And creating spectacle, right? It's also just having different energy, not just staring at a Zoom screen, right? It's like the whole-

Baratunde Thurston  33:54

Right. So I think-

Priya Parker  33:54

... human experience.

Baratunde Thurston  33:56

And that that energy shift, it is a democratic process as well. So many of us are educated in a formality. Oh, it involves a town hall, it involves a speaker and a box and a podium and you say, "Oh, it could involve a dunk tank" and you can grow the love that way.

Election day is this explicitly democratic ritual that we have that is a bit tortured for a lot of us. Is there something you would do to change about our ritual gatherings and events in these moments of election days themselves? How could you reimagine or re-approach that?

Priya Parker  34:32

I think your question is really interesting to zoom out slightly, which is like, which are the national civic rituals that we should actually wrap meaning around and which should be so like, "Just the facts, ma'am"? And so much of what's in this moment of democratic crisis of what's under his threat, if you think about the January 6th coup attempt, what did they specifically try to attack? What was the boring democratic moment that they were trying to interrupt?

Baratunde Thurston  35:04

The certification.

Priya Parker  35:06

Which for 150 years, most citizens didn't even know what it was, right? It was a certification. It was a ritual in which different states read out their ballot count and the vice president certifies the election. It was a very strategic, tactical, surgical attack on before what was actually a mundane civic ritual that had a functional and a ritualistic power. But all of a sudden that has become loaded and baggaged.

And so versus I was so moved at the beginning, that kind of April, May, June, July of the pandemic when we finally got our first vaccine. To me, those moments, standing in line, I went in Brooklyn, the place I went was operated by the National Guard, it was safe, it was orderly, it was full of volunteers. It was this like, I was weepy. It was this beautiful national civic ritual of walking in, sitting side-by-side six feet apart from other citizens or non-citizens, but other human beings in that moment to all get this shot in our arm. And to me, those moments are moments to actually up the civic celebration of you walk outside and everyone starts clapping. These moments where you actually see "this is what government is," right? Government isn't just that election once a year. This is government, right?

Baratunde Thurston  36:36

Yeah. When we do it at the Apple store, when they launch a new product-

Priya Parker  36:40

Everyone claps.

Baratunde Thurston  36:40 

... people line up and they clap. "Congrats! You spent too much money on a device you're going to have to replace in a year." We are very excited.

Priya Parker  36:45


Baratunde Thurston  36:45

So we could do it for something else, yeah.

Priya Parker  36:46

Versus when you think about schools. Looking at schools as these educative places, the difference between schools that on the first day of school everyone just runs in the door versus schools in which, these are all real examples, a principal stands outside the door and greets every student by name. Another school in Connecticut where trying to stop particularly Black student attrition. Black fathers would stand in their professional uniforms from where every bus opened the door to the door and would clap as their children entered the room.

Baratunde Thurston  37:23

Yeah, that's great. That's sparking where do we invest, where do we add meaning, as you said, and what's worth celebrating in terms of our civic culture.

Priya Parker  37:34

Can I just add one thing?

Baratunde Thurston  37:35

Of course, yeah.

Priya Parker  37:35

I think part of when I said earlier, gatherers are meaning makers, there is a lot of our civic life and our democratic life that actually still works. And sometimes it's actually trying to figure out where to put the spotlight saying, "This is something to celebrate."

I was recently rereading Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. There's this moment in the book where basically the man she marries is in this new town and he becomes mayor. One of the things he agitates for is getting electricity into the town. The first streetlight arrives and the narrator basically says something like, "I just thought we'd like stick it in the ground." But what I didn't understand about my husband was that he was a man of ceremony and he got the entire town cooking for three days. And we began to get everyone excited and then we gathered around. And then the first moment when there was literally light, the entire town was gathered and everyone clapped. He understood what and how to make meaning around certain moments of civic life. And the leaders we need now and the citizens are moments to know what to celebrate and to grow. It's like parenting, like grow the good. I mean the media I think is doing a slightly better job of this now than they were four years ago, it's also like, "What to not pay attention to?"

Baratunde Thurston  39:01

Yeah. What should remain boring?

Priya Parker  39:04

Yeah. And not just boring, like the agitation.

Baratunde Thurston  39:05

Not in the spotlight.

Priya Parker  39:06

Don't grow agitation. Don't grow hate speech. Don't retweet, whatever so and so might say.

Baratunde Thurston  39:19

After the break, Priya Parker on how we can reimagine the ways we gather for democracy.

I want to bring us back to kind of neighborhoods, families, workplaces, these places where we gather the most. We got this question in advance from a listener, Sarah Takahara, who wrote, "Some of us are eager to gather and build community, but we've been hurt in past community offerings. How do those of us who are worried about feeling safe and at home in community move forward? How do we honor our need to self-protect while still actively looking to participate in the richness of a community gathering?"

Priya Parker  39:56

Welcome to being alive. "Do I love again? Do I decide to open my heart to a friend again? Do I decide to try something new?" What I would say to dear listener is like, what is your deepest need? Which community? Whose community What are you trying to build a community? Are you trying to join a community? Are you trying to be in community with people who have hurt you and you're trying to create some repair? Are you trying to new people and you're just feeling a little tender from where you were before?

I know I sound like a broken record, but it's coming back to basics, which is really asking and pausing, "What is the need here? What is my need and what do I see the need in this community? Who might share that need?" And then are there boundaries that you set up well ahead of time to create the gatherings you wish existed? I mean, one of the things I thought was so interesting when I did research for the Art of Gathering... So the Art of Gathering as a book is, yes, it's me as a facilitator kind of giving you my lens, but I also interviewed over a hundred different people, including you, Baratunde.

Baratunde Thurston  40:54

Including me and Elizabeth Stewart.

Priya Parker  40:57

And Elizabeth Stewart.

Baratunde Thurston  40:58

Executive producer and my wife. Yeah, we're both-

Priya Parker  40:59

And you're both great gatherers. One of the things I found and I learned from so many people was many, many, many of these gatherers... And I found these people in part because these are people who other people consistently credit with being great gatherers or creating meaningful experiences. One of the things I found was again, and again and again, many of these gatherers self-identified as introverts, as often suffering from social anxiety, as people often on the outside of things. It wasn't my frame of who we think of as like the magnetic host or the person in the middle of the room who can handle each thing.

Baratunde Thurston  41:37

Hey, hey, pointing fingers. Popping collars. Yeah, that person.

Priya Parker  41:39

Exactly. Exactly. "Hand me the mic!" and I asked one person, I said, "Why do you think this is?" And this person said to me, "I create the gatherings I wish existed in the world. I don't rely on the uniqueness of my personality. I create just enough structure and just enough context to allow people to really know if they want to enter. I make sure that there's someone kind of at the steer of the ship, so called, so that there's a light hand pushing people through, they know what they're signing up for, and I'm kind of creating just enough guardrails that I wish I had when I walk into a room and it's vague and diluted or I'm getting cornered by someone forever, but I don't know how to politely sidestep."

And so, so often to go to even to the how do you reengage in community, is to first pause and just ask what kind of community do you want to create. It's not a, "Add water." This is an organic and somewhat synthetic designed experience that takes courage and is risk taking, but also to get really clear on your intent I think allows for some of the courage to be built.

Baratunde Thurston  42:45

Brave spaces. Beautiful. Courage. Thank you. This idea of planning gatherings for good controversy, which is something you've also talked and written about, can feel a little stressful, little nerve-wracking, like inviting controversy, maybe conflict, but especially if you're not a trained facilitator and you've just spoken about the types of hosts who aren't the extroverts, but they've want to create something that they saw missing in the world. You've also added and said that human connection is as threatened by unhealthy peace as unhealthy conflict. Break that apart for me and then I got to follow up with you.

Priya Parker  43:28

So I'm a child of divorce. When my parents announced their separation, I and everyone else was shocked because they never fought. I understood over many years that I come on both sides, from my Indian side and from my white American side from a three generation of ostriches.

Baratunde Thurston  43:48

People who just bury their heads and avoid the conflict.

Priya Parker  43:50

You just stick your head in the sand. Hope it passes. I think in part I'm a conflict resolution facilitator who is conflict averse.

Baratunde Thurston  43:58

Ooh, that's crazy.

Priya Parker  44:00

Right? Even now, it's starting to heat up. This is my job. Things start to heat up, my hands get sweaty. My heart starts beating. I've trained myself physiologically to stay in the game, but also deep empathy for those who are conflict averse. I actually understand their deep desire to just flee because I want to do the same. I think there's some conflicts you just exit that's actually not worth it or it's revealing. But part of what I realized as a facilitator is heat is relevance. Whether it's a community trying to figure out how to allocate its budget or whether it's a newspaper deciding which six stories get on the front page, it kind of goes back to all gathering as political, all systems kind of have to decide what are we about. And the juiciest of those conversations usually have a lot of heat.

So I'll give a simple example. Someone I know who was running a team, she had a weekly staff meeting and she was trying to figure out basically how to, she wouldn't have used this language, but how to bring more heat to the room. She was like, "I can tell they're not really..."

Baratunde Thurston  45:08

People holding back.

Priya Parker  45:08

"They're holding back. I can tell they're not really saying what they think. I'm not really sure why." and so I said, "Don't try to change everything. The way you open a gathering matters. How are you opening your meetings?" And she told me and I said, "Why don't you try this? For six weeks, you have 60 minutes. Spend the first five to 10 minutes doing a very simple technique called rose and thorn." It's something often from parenting circles. You zip around, you say, "What's your best thing of your week and what's the worst thing of the week?" And that's it. People could decide if it was work or if it was from their own life.

And I called her up later and I said, "What happened?" And she said, "Well first, since we did it regularly, different people took different risks over time. Some people chose to just keep it at work. Some people thought work is more risky. 'My two-year-old stubbed their toe, I'm going to keep this low risk.' But basically over time people started expanding their geographical conversation in terms of what they said." But something else happened, which is she said, this is her language, "I didn't realize that I've always been perceived as a cheerleader, somebody to bring things to and grow. I didn't realize that they didn't want to bring me bad news. And by shifting, by starting with a rose and thorn and giving them equal weight, we culturally normalized thorns."

Baratunde Thurston  46:21

It's okay to bring thorns into this space.

Priya Parker  46:23

It's okay. And even more than okay, it's normal. And so part of really thinking about creating cultures for healthy conflict, sometimes you do need an external facilitator. And some of the things I would tell you to do, I would say don't try this at home. But one of the things we can all do is really think about in the first five minutes of how you open something, what is the civic ritual, even if it's on a Zoom chat of getting people to practice that muscle in low risk ways.

Baratunde Thurston  46:56

Yeah. I also just really appreciate you, the expert, the author, the Ted speaker, the conflict resolution specialist saying, "My hands still get clammy." And that we've prized comfort so much in life. In our economy, we create products to ease all kinds of discomfort and in our political and civic life too. So if something makes us feel icky, we want to crush it or avoid it or flee from it. And to see you practicing living with it and sharing stories of people inviting it, normalizing, like discomfort is also part of the process, I think that's a really essential takeaway from this.

So much of gathering and the way we've talked about it and the way I hear folks talk about it is focused on the hosting, how to host. Any tips for guesting? How do we better attend and guest so that our gatherings... It takes both functions.

Priya Parker  47:52

This work is called the Art of Gathering, not the art of hosting in part because I think guests have a lot of power. Guests absolutely shape a gathering. If someone is in the room and they're checked out, everyone can feel it, right? If someone's texting under the table, everyone can feel it. Most of us are guests much more often than we're hosts. That's true for me certainly. And so, often to think about, first of all, sort of stepping all the way back, if a gathering starts before anyone enters the room, it starts at the moment of the discovery. First of all, these invitations come in. Invitations are these like little vessels. One gathering at a time to think about, to consider how do you want to spend your time and with whom, and to pause and to ask, first, to build what I call discernment muscles, which is to pause. "How is this invitation making me feel?" Which ones are you rolling your eyes at? Which ones make you angry? Which ones are you like, "You know what? I'm going to leave this company. This is so disrespectful..

We react even if you're not paying attention, which ones are you so excited that you start clapping when you're so excited you got invited to something? Just notice. Then the second, as a guest, really thinking about... We talk about nutritional diets of a culture or a community. What does a group of people eat? We talk about informational diets. What do we read? What do we doom scroll? When do we limit our doom scrolling? I want to introduce the sort of the idea of a gathering diet. How many? What type? With whom? Over what gatherings do you want to host or guest to maintain relational health, but also a boundaried life? And what's the right balance for you? And then the final thing I'll say is in terms of an intentional guest, and this is if you remember nothing else from our conversation, an invitation is like someone throwing you a ball. And so often we think the only way to throw a ball back is if you can go, is to say yes. When it comes to invitations, don't be a maybe. It's a dilution of everybody's energy. "Will I go? Will I not go?" It keeps this question open your head. It keeps their question. Unless they're literally like, "Come on by if you want open house. No big deal. Don't RSVP." Great, go do that. But basically to practice either an enthusiastic yes, "Yes, I choose to go to this. Yes, I want to be there," or a connected no.

We often think saying no is actually not throwing the ball back. Not responding is not throwing the ball back. And actually by saying, "I thank you so much for thinking of me, I won't be able to make it," it's actually citizening. It's throwing this ball back. And so often how we actually model these moments of transaction affect so much about how we spend our time in part because then you are choosing what you want to go to. And to be in a place you want to be is a beautiful experience. And also you show up differently. And then not being someplace is also like, our gatherings are affected by who's there and who's not there. People saying no to stuff is also data. "Interesting. Why do they say no to this? Maybe we should shift it. Interesting. No one's coming to our conference this year. Maybe we need to figure out why are they saying no," right? It's an ongoing practice and conversation in communities which is trying to figure out what is the need, how should we gather, and who decides.

Baratunde Thurston 51:18

As you know, Priya, citizen is a verb in the title of this show, right? How to Citizen. And so I'm going to ask you what would be your definition of the word citizen if you choose to interpret it as we do as a verb?

Priya Parker  51:33

To pay attention to the needs around you, to choose with discernment which ones you choose to address, to galvanize the people with a shared need, and to do it in a way where you don't all have to be the same.

Baratunde Thurston  51:51

Beautiful. We are entering the community, ask questions phase.

Priya Parker  51:56


Baratunde Thurston  51:56

This is a Q&A. We like to do these things live. And so if we have Cassandra or Cassandra, you will tell us which it is, and your question.

Cassandra  52:05

Hi. Thank you so much. Cassandra Staff is what I say. I respond to both. I'm in San Jose, California. This has been very interesting and inspiring. I am starting a new job soon and I'm wondering if you have any advice for gatherings to establish meaningful connections with about a hundred people in my first 90 days on a nonprofit budget and something like an alternative to surveys and one-on-ones.

Priya Parker  52:32

So two questions. Is it online or in-person or a mix?

Cassandra  52:36

Mostly in-person.

Priya Parker  52:37

And do you have institutional authority?

Cassandra  52:39

I will.

Priya Parker  52:40

You will. So first of all, the reason I ask about the institutional authority is in a work context, who is calling the meeting and your ability to call a meeting or a gathering really depends on what type of power and will you have in an organization. I mean, I'll give a few examples of different forms that I think have been effective for certain people. The first is, think about what are the types of gatherings that are low pressure but high interest. So what I mean by that is something like a brown bag lunch, right? Starting a speaker series that's a local activists in the San Jose area, I'm making this up, where you come in and it's voluntary, but every Tuesday at noon there's a brown bag lunch, right? It's broadly informal, but you're also seeing kind of who's coming. Particularly if it's in person, like the before chat, the after chat. It's low stakes, but it's relevant to the organization.

One of my favorite books of the last year is Oliver Burkeman's Four Thousand Weeks. Do you know what 4,000 weeks is? So 4,000 weeks is the number of weeks one has in their life should they be lucky enough to live till 80. So the subtitle of the book is Time Management for Mortals. The second half of the book is really interesting for me and the people who are interested in kind of gathering and collective life because he talks about this concept called the social regulation of time. This idea is basically that when we choose to come together at the same time, at the same place, by definition we're giving up some amount of individual freedom, right? Can I listen to the meeting whenever I want? Or do I need to be there in person at the same time, at the same place?

He talks about this Swedish tradition called the Fika. And he says in Sweden, in many workplaces, at around three o'clock, everybody gets up and goes and has a coffee in the office. This is different than having a cappuccino machine or coffee machine that you kind of go to whenever you want. This is the social regulation of time. One of the managers in the book said, "If I want to know what's happening in my workplace, I attend the Fika." And he says, "It's not required, but you'd get a side eye, a Swedish side eye if you don't go." And again, I'm not saying you should institute a Fika. You have to figure out what's your cultural appropriate way to have low stakes, but high relevance gatherings. Some of this is also running a bunch of experiments. Who are these people? Are these people who are really interested for novelty and saying, "Wow, it's so amazing having all these outside speakers?" Or is this a culture that's like, "Why are they bringing in all these outsiders?" Right?

Experiment. But I would have specific and focused ways in the first 90 days in which you are sharing your agenda, you are letting them get to know you. And then I would have ways in which it feels more low stakes, but still relevant to the organization. It's not gratuitous connection for connection's sake. It's connection to the purpose of your organization.

Baratunde Thurston  55:30

Thank you. And we're going to call on Katie Riley.

Katie Riley  55:33

Hello. And hey, Priya, good to see you.

Priya Parker  55:33

Hi Katie, what a treat.

Katie Riley  55:40

Hello. So I'm Katie. I'm an organizer. I live in Queens, New York and a big fan of democracy and citizenship. So this is super cool. As somebody who is very fond of The Art of Gathering, of thinking about different ways to gather, where do you see the most untapped potential right now in creating gatherings, particularly for organizers and people who really care about protecting democracy?

Priya Parker  56:05

Beautiful question. The most untapped opportunity right now is to create pockets and moments of deep joy. We have models, like during the pandemic, St. James Joy, this couple as I understand it, who basically deed off their Brooklyn stoop and people would come and dance and kind of get it out once particularly we knew that it was safe to be outside to gather. But I think so much of what's happening in this country, there's so many underlying structural reasons as to why we are a hot mess, to put it sociologically.

Baratunde Thurston  56:39

Yeah, scientific terms.

Priya Parker  56:40

Inequality. The loss and confusion around roles in so many different ways. I talked earlier about almost metaphorically reading a bodies, I would go back to that parking lot example, which is like, many, many, many people are lonely. Many, many, many people aren't doing just the basic steps of getting outside and doing something that's fun. We've been kind of physiologically crouched for two and a half years for a lot of different reasons. And having pockets of joy... And there's so many examples. Even during the BLM protests of the Cupid Shuffle in the middle of the street. We don't not know how to do this. But I think so often we think like, "We need to have these intellectual discussions." And so often we need the medicine of joy, of relief, of laughter, of humor, and ideally of experiencing some of that with strangers and part of creating spaces that you literally feel safe in public spaces. It's not a lack of danger. It's a presence of beauty, of joy, of laughter, of release.

The second thing I would say is we've been through a traumatic period with the pandemic and it's continued. We're still living a different phase of the pandemic. But for multiple years, we were as a nation in deep fear. I think that the second civic need is finding appropriate ways to grieve.

Baratunde Thurston  58:16

Priya, beautiful answers. The thing that bridges this for me with Katie's question, your answer, Priya, is the Lincoln Memorial. I recently was in Washington DC for a big civic event, popped over to the Lincoln Memorial with friends. At the foot of the Lincoln Memorial was a group of teenagers dancing. They had loud speakers, they were choreographed. We thought, "Is this a music video?"

Priya Parker  58:43

Flash mob. TikTok.

Baratunde Thurston  58:45

"Is this a TikTok challenge?" So I went up to two of these kids and I said, "What is this beautiful thing?" And they're like, "Oh..." They had a name for it. They just know each other through Instagram, but they don't know each other. They know that they're connected to this thing. It was a flash dance mob and they were so happy. The physical metaphor of one of them being in their bodies and expressing joy of being around strangers, of being in a public space between the Lincoln Memorial and the reflecting pool, that was America. That was the best of citizening and gathering and joy. It's everything that Katie asked and it's everything that you answered in an instance.

Priya Parker  59:26

They're breaking our idea of the form of what is supposed to look like honoring, right? With this silent, hollowed tones of going. And that may be honoring in some places, right? But to reclaim-

Baratunde Thurston  59:40

Yeah, but for these kids it was K-Pop dance.

Priya Parker  59:42

Yeah, but we can do this... It's kind of controversial. In certain cases is, "What does it look like to honor?" And so I love this example in part because it's actually bringing relevance to one of the most important physical symbols that we have in the country.

Baratunde Thurston  1:00:00

I appreciate you Priya Parker.

Priya Parker  1:00:01

Thank you for having me. Always a total joy.

Baratunde Thurston  1:00:04

It really is. I think there's something elemental in your interpretation of how to and the power of gathering that what we see reflected that feels ugly and unapproachable and even dangerous in some elements of our politics and civic life could be addressed if we gather differently and if we practiced differently, and even if we said no differently, but said something and leaned into discomfort in someplace. But most essentially, if we acknowledge the need, if we discover that need. And then with that clear discovery, find creative ways to meet them and are always honest about needing to refresh that because some old ways we have may not be discovering or meeting our needs, and that's okay. Let's do something different. So you've provoked and inspired. I appreciate you so much.

Priya Parker  1:00:53

Thank you so much. Beautifully summarized. You are a beautiful host and you listened so deeply. I couldn't have put it by myself, so thank you for having me and thank you for letting me part of your community.

Baratunde Thurston  1:01:03

Thank you for being a part of ours so, so much.

Priya Parker  1:01:06

Thank you so much for having me.

Baratunde Thurston  1:01:07

Love, love, love.

Priya Parker  1:01:08

Bye y'all.

Baratunde Thurston  1:01:12

Priya's instruction to stop and assess the purpose and need of these moments is a powerful, clear takeaway to help us make the time we spend together more meaningful and more relevant.

Before this conversation, I'd never thought of the act of gathering as a technology, specifically in the context of morality. When Priya described Trump rallies, those gatherings as morally neutral, that was kind of like a record scratch moment. But as someone with so many thoughts and feelings about what technology is and means, it made sense. Gatherings to me are a real low tech technology. We often think of technology as a hardware, as software, and it can be represented in those modes. But technology is a reproducible practice. It's a way of coordinating our knowledge. I think gatherings qualify in the same way that Ruha Benjamin, one of our earlier guests, talked about social technologies.

Gatherings are a social technology and it's a technology that can help us get things done. Gatherings can help us see each other, hear new ideas, reach consensus, can help a citizen, or they can help destroy the fabric of democracy. It all depends on how we use them. And like with all tech, gatherings need to be honestly assessed and reimagined when they no longer serve us. So follow me on this little journey. If we can get more creative, playful, and purposeful in the ways we bring people together and show up, I think that can have a bubbling up effect where with time we can start to embody a different way of being together in our every day. I think that could change how we come together on very special days like election days. Gathering better can help us citizen better.

Now it's time for some actions. Like we always do, here are things you can do to practice what we've been hearing. We've organized these into three categories. The first category, internal reflection. Something you can do inside your own head. I want you to think about gatherings in your life. Try to think of a great one where you felt connected, fulfilled, and a sense of purpose. Now try to think of a bad one where you felt the opposite of those things. Think about if there's any gatherings that really surprised you versus what you expected of them. And as you reflect on these, can you identify what about the gathering made you feel the way you do about it now?

The second recommendations in the category of getting more informed. Check out Priya's conversation with Brené Brown on her Dare to Lead podcast. We'll have it linked in the show notes. They go through an example of Priya's Gathering Makeover, which is focused on improving a weekly leadership meeting. That may not sound like it has anything to do with practicing democracy, but it's got everything to do with literally practicing democracy.

And our final recommendation is an action in the form of public participation. I want you to go to Priya's website, it's, and find the gathering toolkit she's made available there. On that page, download the free guide called The New Rules of Gathering. Then I want you to plan a gathering based on this workbook. It can be anything, a poker night, a tenant association meeting, a congressional hearing. I know you listen to Congress, I read the Patriot Act. You listened to everything. Now see if you and your folks feel differently about this gathering than others, and then let us know how it went.

If you take any of these actions, please brag about it online and use the hashtag #howtocitizen. Also, tag our Instagram, @howtocitizen, or you can email us I am always online and I really do see your messages, so send them. You can also visit our website,, which has all of our shows, full transcripts, actions, and more. Finally, see this episode's show notes for resources, actions, and more ways to connect.

How to Citizen with Baratunde is a production of iHeartRadio Podcasts and Rowhome Productions. Our executive producers are me, Baratunde Thurston, and Elizabeth Stewart. Our lead producer is Allie Graham. Our associate producer is Danya AbdelHameid. Alex Lewis is our managing producer, and John Myers is our executive editor and mix engineer. Original Music by Andrew Eapen, with additional music by Blue Dot Sessions. Special thanks to Joelle Smith from iHeartRadio and Layla Bina.

Next on How to Citizen.

Steve Kerr  1:06:22

I think it's important if you're going to be involved in the community and involved in some kind of social change that you're looking for, find a passion, find something that you're particularly interested in, and focus on it and read about it and get to know your subject. For me, that topic is gun violence. I lost my dad to gun violence when I was 18 years old, and so that issue is my passion.

Baratunde Thurston  1:06:46

NBA championship winning coach Steve Kerr talks teamwork and flexing our civic muscles on and off the court with leaders from the world of college athletics. We all belong to a team. So what can we learn from people who practice teamwork as their job? Yes, we're running hard with the sports metaphor, but it works. Find out how on the next episode.

Rowhome Productions.


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