“The point of the [discussion] guidelines is to build a sense of how we're going to talk together even when controversy happens.” (Kelly Maxwell quoted in Koenig, 2020, para. 27)
Conversational norms are relevant for all discussions - whether affinity groups, classroom discussions, or workshop breakout rooms. Practicing these on an ongoing basis lays the framework to make deeper conversations possible because you've established boundaries for the participants and a guide for you as the facilitator.
Over the past year we have revisited, revised, and again revisited the conversational norms we use. We consider the agreed upon norms as a living document that changes and grows as we change and grow as an organization in order to best suit the needs of the participants and facilitators. We are intentional about the space we create to ensure that it follows principles of equity and social justice.
Conversational norms are important for a well-functioning group. They help to define the space so that everyone has similar expectations for how the conversation will be managed. They also serve as a touchstone when things don't go as planned.
Currently, the conversational norms we use are the following:
WE STRIVE TO GROW - We aim to have an affirming experience in which to grow together.
WE SPEAK FOR OURSELVES - We speak from the “I” perspective.
WE ENCOURAGE REFLECTION - We deepen our awareness about our impact, roles, and responsibilities in social systems.
WE ARE PRESENT - We commit to bringing our whole selves to the conversation as we are able.
WE ARE BRAVE - We foster a brave space for meaningful conversations.
WE BUILD COMMUNITY - We support each other as a community of lifelong learners.
WE LISTEN - We balance sharing with listening.
WE ADDRESS DIFFICULT MOMENTS - We acknowledge intent and assess impact. We try to address difficult moments in a constructive way for all.
WE MAINTAIN CONFIDENTIALITY - What’s said here stays here. What’s learned here leaves here.