Facilitating Inclusive Conversations
Conversation and dialogue have been integral to human experience and learning since our earliest shared oral histories. This tool provides guidance on best practices for facilitating inclusive conversations, to optimize equitable participation and learning.
Examine Personal Identity and Positionality
Before beginning, take time to reflect on your own intersectional identities and positionality in the conversation space. What biases do you bring to the table? Are you a supervisor, manager or instructor over other group members? What societal privileges, marginalized identities, and life experiences shape your own conceptions of the content being discussed?
Create Cooperative and Inclusive Norms for Communication
Allow participants the opportunity to establish their own guidelines for participation in the discussion. Feel free to prompt if necessary and include your own. The following are some examples of norms that may be useful in these conversations:
•Be respectful approach controversy with civility, respect other participants as individuals with unique lived experiences
•Be engaged be an active and reflective listener
•Be curious seek to understand difference, ask questions before making assumptions
•Be humble take ownership and accountability for mistakes and have a growth mindset to learn from missteps
•Make space/Take space be aware of how much space you take up and ensure there is space for all to speak and share
Create Time and Space for Reflection
As a facilitator your role is to support reflective learning. Be comfortable with silence, allow ample time for participants to consider a question posed before responding. If it is helpful, count to twenty in your head before re-asking/rephrasing the question. Utilize real or virtual hallways and breakout room spaces to allow participants to step away if needed.
Be Open to Feedback
Pay attention to verbal and non-verbal communication and cues about how the conversation is going. Be willing to adjust, move on or take breaks as needed. If explicit feedback is given, ask questions and stay curious, avoid getting defensive.
Difficult conversations can be taxing for participants as well as facilitators; the dialogue may bring up complex emotions or past traumas. Take time to decompress and care for yourself after the discussion and encourage participants to do the same.
NYU Grossman School of Medicine – Quick Guide to Facilitating Listening and Processing Sessions
University of Chicago – Inclusive Pedagogy: Facilitate Inclusive Discussions
University of Chicago – Inclusive Pedagogy: Manage Difficult Conversations
University of Michigan – Guidelines for Discussing Difficult or High-Stakes Topics
University of Missouri – Guide to Facilitating Dialogues
Vanderbilt University – Difficult Dialogues