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Maria Shriver On The Power of Conversation

March 11, 2016

'Do we really and truly ever know what it’s like to walk in another’s path?'

The other day a women came up to me to tell me she had attended one of our Architect of Change Live conversations. The one I did with my cousin Patrick Kennedy about his struggle with addiction and mental health issues.

She said to me, “You know, I came in to that conversation prejudiced about him and his ‘so called struggle.’ I left feeling open, saying to myself I didn’t know as much about him as I thought. I left with a new way of thinking.” She continued, “I then watched your conversation online with Kris Jenner. I was so mad you had chosen to speak with her but then I watched it and I realized again I didn’t know what I thought I knew. I realized I was judgmental. And they have both made me rethink my opinions. They have made me realize I need to be more open and think in a different way.”

I was thrilled by this exchange because the exact purpose of our Architect of Change Live conversation series is to do just that: Open our hearts and our minds. Get us to think anew. Reframe the conversation: the one in our heads and the one in our hearts. The ones we have with ourselves about ourselves. The ones we have with others about people we think we know. But do we really and truly ever know what it’s like to walk in another’s path?

Maria Shriver: Watch all of the Architects of Change Live Conversations here

I admit I don’t always know. That’s why I love talking to people. People who are open enough to share their truth. That’s how I learn, by listening, by realizing the power of a simple conversation.

I believe there is no more important time than right now to engage in calm, civil, conscious conversation with others. Conversations open hearts and minds. They make us stop, feel, connect, think. They give us insight, information and inspire us forward. What kind of conversation are you engaged in? With yourself, with others? Is is angry, abusive, critical, judgmental? What comes of that?

So much can come of the alternative. At the end of this week I had a very illuminating and powerful conversation with a man I’ve known since he was little. Someone I thought I knew well. Turns out I didn’t know his deep struggle, his deep pain. I learned it through conversation, I learned it by listening. Once I listened through his anger I was able to hear the truth of his pain.I now know just a little bit more than I knew before.

Maria Shriver: Let Go of Anger. 2 Forgiveness Exercises to Try at Home

Yesterday I was in conversation with Architect of Change Cindy Crawford at the Young Women’s Conference that I’m the Honorary Chair of here in Los Angeles. This week I’ll be in conversation with Terry Crews at the Masculinity 2.0 Conference at my son’s school. And then Thursday I’ll be in conversation with Debbie Allen and others to reframe our thoughts around gun violence. I’m excited to learn this week. Because I know that I have so much to learn from others. Those I don’t know and even those I do.

Maria Shriver: Read all of Maria’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ blogs here

There is power in conversation. It can reveal common struggles, common ground. A conversation can open your heart and your mind. I hope we can remember that as the election season begins in earnest this week. As people caucus and go to polls. Pundits will dub some as winners and losers. The conversations, I’m sure, will be heated, and I suspect divisive. What can we do? We can each commit to engage in a civil, conscious, compassionate conversation with a fellow human being. Someone we might not agree with. Someone who we can learn something from. We might all leave saying “I didn’t know that.” Challenge what is. Imagine what can be.

The best way to start is by igniting a conversation. Make it happen.

This article originally appeared on MariaShriver.com