Sidewalk Talk Wants Us to All Care About Each Other Again

“In our American mythology of hyper-individualism, we are expected to stand up on our own two feet, to compete against each other for survival. Only the weak and needy ask for help.This is a hostile environment for empathy!  Empathy needs love to flourish. We need to make space for each other. We need to rebel against the mythology of hyper-individualism so we can live fulfilling and meaningful lives surrounded by people that we love and who love us.” —Kerrie Mohr, Sidewalk Talk NYC Chapter Leader

Sidewalk Talk is a listening project started three years ago by San Francisco therapists.

What do we do?

We practice empathy and listening, and take those skills out onto public sidewalks all over the world. We sit on the sidewalk with two chairs, offering to listen to ANY person about ANY thing.

Since our first big event in May 2015, we have organized a post-election bus tour across the U.S. and expanded to 10 countries and 29 cities–and we’ll have another tour in April 2018. We have zero paid employees and our operating budget is $2,000/year. How cool is that?

Why do we do this?

We are rebels. Our mission is to nurture human connection by teaching and practicing heart-centered listening in public spaces. By engaging a diverse and inclusive community of volunteers, our culture, relationships, and the world are transformed.

Half of us are therapists. The other half are people with no special training. But we all believe our world is way too divided, and unless we take an active stand in doing something, nothing will change. No Facebook posts on how we SHOULD listen compare to actually sitting out in public spaces offering the experience first-hand.


We are having an impact.  We have referred hundreds of people to low-fee and no-fee mental health support.  And we are beginning to measure the impact on our volunteers.  We have some surprising initial anecdotal evidence that the listeners themselves experience an increased sense of hope about the world, personal well-being, and a big shift in their own biases about people.

Where are we headed?

Sidewalk Talk wants to stick to our street listening format. We like the rebelliousness of it. But I have also started working with corporate teams to facilitate listening training and taking teams out to the sidewalk to listen together. We are finding that this is a unique way in which companies can not only foster empathy within their companies, but also directly work on implicit bias. We are also expanding to more countries and cities as we speak.


We love volunteers! Feel free to donate your time or your heartfelt dollars if you feel called.

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About the Author | Traci Ruble

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