Guidelines for Small and Large Group Conversations

"The greatest gift we can give one another is the quality of our attention."

- Richard Moss

  • Begin and end with silence.
  • Begin and end on time, arriving early to be ready.
  • Bring the gift of your presence, attention and prayerful listening to yourself and to others.
  • Bring respect for differences.
  • Between speakers, allow a moment of silence for reflection.
  • Give everyone a chance to speak once, before beginning dialogue or conversation.
  • Use a presence keeper (bell) to call us to recollection at regular intervals and if we lose our focus or presence.
  • Use "I'' statements and speak thoughtfully and honestly from your experience. For example: Before speaking to others, ask yourself: Is what I am going to say necessary, truthful and kind? and/or When speaking to others: use respectful and "nonviolent communication"*, taking responsibility for your observations, feelings, needs and requests.

    Marshall Rosenberg, in Nonviolent Communication, offers this template:

  • "When I see/hear .... (describe your observation, without judgment or evaluation),
  • I feel .... (describe the feeling that arises in you following what you observe),
  • Because I need ... (describe what human need you have, that is either met or unmet).
  • Would you be willing to ... (make a request of the other or the group)?"

    When appropriate, Facilitator/Convener:

  • Holds quality of space and responsibility for guidelines.
  • Prepares the space with a candle or flowers, circle of chairs, refreshments.
  • Opens and closes with prayer or scripture.
  • Shares leadership and presence-keeping.
  • Reviews before closing: How did we do? How was the quality of our silence and presence?