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ISU encouraging empathy, open conversation amid discourse over masks, vaccines

During the pandemic, decisions like wearing a mask or getting a COVID-19 vaccine have become divisive across the country and in Iowa.

AMES, Iowa — Iowa State University is hoping to encourage Iowans to open their ears before opening their mouths. Tuesday, ISU kicked off a conference on deliberative democracy.

During the pandemic, decisions like wearing a mask or getting a COVID-19 vaccine have become divisive across the country and in Iowa.

Political Science Professor Karen Kedowski from Iowa State University says the best way to overcome polarization is to understand where the other person is coming from.

"Think about it in terms of putting yourself into somebody else's shoes," said Kedowski. "It shows much more empathy and understanding about why decisions are made may not go your way, or to understand if they do go your way, that it might come at the cost of somebody else."

Wednesday's events will focus on encouraging Iowans to have conversations outside their respective bubbles and engage with others they might not always agree with.

"There's a way that we can have civil conversations and really explore issues without engaging in negative personal attacks, trolling, or any other really toxic," said Kedowski. "It's also important for us to sit down and talk with and listen to people who don't agree with us."

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