Read & Watch

Suggested timing: 25 minutes

As the facilitator it is your responsibility to maintain the space. Below are some concrete suggestions for supporting dialogue.

10 min: Review the text below on your own 15 min: As a group, reflect on the list.

  • Have you seen these practices adapted in this learning circle?
  • What is particularly hard for you?
  • Any other suggestions that you would add to the list? Things you’d remove?

Managing the Discussion

(Also known as “What do I do or say now?”)

If someone interrupts: Move on to the next speaker, encouraging orderly conversation. Remember that people like to talk, and in many cases you will be able to move from one participant to another.

“Thank you for your insights and sharing. Would anyone else like to share or have a comment?”

To clarify a point someone has made: Paraphrase what a person has said to clarify the point and move the conversation to a deeper place; you can do this in a way that makes it easy for the speaker to correct you.

“What I’m hearing is ____. Is that correct?”

To dig deeper: Ask a probing or follow-up question to the speaker to get clarification.

“Let’s unpack that.”

“Why is that important to you?”

“Can you say more about that?”

Engaging participants to respond to a comment that was made: Ask a “reaction question” that invites other participants to comment on the last speaker’s comments in some way.

“Does anyone else have a different view?”

If the conversation gets “off track” or you need to redirect things: Ask a new starting question. Go ahead and shift the conversation if you need to. You are a moderator.

“In the interest of time we are going to move on.”

“I’d like to bring us back on track now.”

What if it gets quiet and nobody says anything? Let there be silence.

Often, facilitators feel pressure to keep the conversation flowing, so they are troubled by silence and try to fill it with a probing question or by changing the topic. It’s okay to sit in the silence and give people a little space to find their way to what they want to say.

What if someone says something outrageously offensive? It just might happen. Someone might say something that takes you aback – something that sucks all the air out of the space. Yep, it could happen.

Let the comment sit. Check the reaction of the others in the space. Invite others to comment and respond.

You can also ask for a few seconds of silent reflection and then go around the room and ask each person to share one word about how they feel. Remember, you aren’t here to fix anyone.

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