Last week we held a training on how to host a “Conversation Cafe“. This is a simple process for promoting civil dialogue with friends and neighbors. What is dialogue? It’s different than many of the conversations we have. It is deeper than the polite discussion that avoids the hard topics. It is the opposite of debate. Dialogue skills include asking open-ended questions and “listening to understand”.
One participant asked, how do you get started? That can be as simple as setting a time and place and walking an invitation around your neighborhood. Then download and print the following “Conversation Cafe” cards. Once people arrive, welcome them, give them a card. When you are ready to start, first briefly review the values and process for the Conversation Cafe, and invite comments on the topic at hand. This can be as simple as saying “we are talking about community, let us know what matters most to you.” Or you might start with a summary from one of our mini-guides. Make sure you end on time so everyone can plan their day (although you can always invite those who want to to continue the conversation following the fourth round in the process for as long as you are willing to host!)
On nice feature of the Conversation Cafe process is that the host is able to share his or her own thoughts as the conversation unfolds. If you are the host though, try not to be the first to speak to the topic! Instead you might try using your turn to summarize the range of thoughts offered in each round and provide an invitation into the next. Take the lead in avoiding right/wrong debate-oriented statements. From time to time you may need to offer a gentle reminder that in a dialogue everyone is welcome and you are listening to understand. You may also need to remind those who are anxious to talk that in the first two rounds, and in the last round, everyone talks once before anyone talks twice! You can read more about hosting Conversation Cafes in this guide.
Whether you host a Conversation Cafe or host another more informal discussion, remember to report in. We will weave together the conversations you have at our third Tuesday Community Commons. Note that the next Community Commons is scheduled for February 21 from 7 to 9 pm.
You don’t have to wait until the next Community Commons for community dialogue though! The “Wake-Up” campaign at Battle High School will host a Neighbor2Neighbor dialogue on February 7. Doors open at 4:30, and the program starts right at 5. Come out and support the youth who are planning and leading this event!
What: Neighbor2Neighbor Dialogue at Battle High School
When: February 7, 4:30 to 7 pm
Where: Battle High School Performing Arts Center