How to host a dialogue

Getting Started

 

Getting a team together

It’s usually a good idea for these conversations not to be led by one person.  Try and get a diverse group of people together. Make sure you have a common vision and understanding of what you’re trying to do. You might find it helpful to hold a few dialogue sessions between yourselves first!

 

Go at the speed of trust

Don’t try and jump into more contentious topics first. Build your community’s capacity for conversation and dialogue first. Once you’re more confident in your group’s ability to disagree well and respect one another’s opinions then you can dive into the ‘harder’ conversations.

Creating a good environment for conversation

 

Clarify the purpose of a dialogue

When you start your session it’s good to remind people what a dialogue is and isn’t. It isn’t a place to try and persuade one another, or put across a particular perspective. It’s an open listening and learning space.

 

Group Agreements

It’s important to agree how the dialogue is going to take place and what ‘rules’ you’re going to agree to to help the conversation happen well. Some ideas we use are:

  • Show up - be present in the conversation!

  • Listen brilliantly and don’t interrupt.

  • Be curious. Adopt a learning posture and seek to understand more.

  • Speak for yourself / Make “I statement” (e.g. I think... In my opinion... From my perspective...)

  • Be ok to disagree but don’t tell the other person they’re wrong (e.g. “that’s interesting, that’s not my experience” rather than “that’s not true, it’s actually...”)

  • Offer your opinion as a gift not a weapon

  • All participants have equal status, while we recognise that some may have more experience than others, everyone's contribution is valued equally

  • Not every comment needs a response

  • Silence is ok

Giving input before a dialogue

You may find it helpful to share some input before the dialogue so that people have something to stimulate their thoughts and emotions. You could do this by sending round articles, videos etc. before the meeting, or by prepping a few people (with different experience or views) to share briefly at the beginning of the dialogue.

 

Checking-in and Checking-out

It’s good to start and end your dialogue by asking some questions that helps you

  1. Get a sense of where people are at as they come into and leave the room

  2. Ensure that everyone has already spoken into the room before the dialogue begins

Check-In Questions
  • What brings you here today?

  • How are you feeling about this conversation?

1.

Personal engagement with the topic
  • What’s your understanding of the issues?

  • What’s informed your thinking (experience, reading etc.)

  • Why is this something you care about? How does it affect your personally?

2.

Broader society
  • What’s the prevailing narrative in our culture about this issue?

  • What do you think is the root of the problem we see?

3.

Responding to the issue
  • What responses or solutions have you seen or been a part of?

  • What’s worked well and what hasn’t?

  • How do you feel about them?

  • What could you/we do next?

4.

Check-Out Questions
  • What’s most struck you from today?

  • How are you feeling now?

5.