3 Responses to How to Have a Respect-filled Conversation

  1. anita fonte says:

    Very good article and we (Imagine Greater Tucson) are implementing these kind of Community Conversations into our 2 year planning process. I have also been doing this work since 1984.

  2. Hina Pendle says:

    Thanks for the great blogs. I have had many Community Conversations over the years and can share stories of the impact they have made. I am planning a larger, more focused public engagement event on the topic of water in the central coast region. I also feel that it is vital for true democracy and sustainability to integrate these deliberative practices into our local communities. It can be the very lifeline for surviving through the recession, which is probably far from over.

  3. Hina Pendle says:

    I want to add that to help generate respect-filled conversations, I prepare hosts for each of the conversation circles, especially for first-time participants. I find that it grounds the circle, prevents confusion about expectations, process and welcomes participation. Here’s my guideline for Hosts:

    Hosting a Conversation Circle

    Thank you for being a circle host. Your presence is instrumental in shaping the experience and productivity of the people in your circle. Below is an orientation to help you step into your role.

    Host: Your overarching aim, as the Host of a circle, is to enable all the members of the group to dialog and work together safely and effectively.
    ❑ It’s best if you remain “content neutral”, not taking sides or advocating a particular point of view during the conversation.
    ❑ You are the circle facilitator and thereby advocate for fair, open and inclusive interactions.

    Recorder/Scribe: Ask/arrange for a person in the group to be a Recorder, to keep notes of important points, insights, ideas you want to bring forward to the large group and to post after each conversation. The Recorder is the “knowledge” manager of the group and possibly the public presenter.

    Please review and become familiar with the agenda, schedule and the activities in each segment. Review the following guidelines for maximizing your effectiveness as a host. You are managing time, setting the tone and environment for harmonious conversations and coordinating with the event facilitator:

    ❑ Time: Introductions: Tell the group that introductions are brief and uninterrupted. Go around the circle for each person to give their name, where from and a one-liner “What is your affiliation with ….?” After introductions, encourage conversation addressing the topic to flow spontaneously.
    ❑ Caution 1: If introductions move into conversation and take too long, it will take time and focus away from the designated dialog.
    ❑ Caution 2: As a host, people may look to you as an expert. Please don’t dominate the conversation. Focus the attention back to the participant’s contributions.
    ❑ It is important that everyone gets a chance to speak & contribute to the conversation.
    ❑ Be aware of shy people, giving them a safe, uninterrupted space to talk.
    ❑ Some enthusiastic people could dominate the time and may need encouragement to be concise or wrap-up what they have to say-“thank you, let’s hear from others”.
    ❑ Watch for side-conversations, gently stop the dialog and bring all attention back to the group.
    ❑ Manage overall time. The event facilitator will remind you of the total time that has been allotted for each segment.
    ❑ Caution 3: If the group has strayed far away from the topic, bring them back in enough time to complete ideas for Harvest and Posting results.
    ❑ Harvest: After each round every group will report and post results of the group’s dialog.
    ❑ The event facilitator will announce when time is nearly elapsed and again when it’s time to complete.
    ❑ Help your group complete and move to the next activity.

    ❑ Tone: Set a tone of respect, kindness and warmth. Encourage the group to listen deeply with curiosity to understand the others perspective.
    o Disagreement is fine and can be rich and rewarding. Disrespect is never fine.
    o Inclusion: Make sure everyone has a chance to be included in the conversation. Recognize and Appreciate people’s contributions.
    ❑ Notes; At the Harvest your group reporter, depending on the activity, will post results, share the ideas, insights and experience of the circle with the whole group.

    ❑ Thank You

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