Discussion Guidelines

These guidelines for productive discussion are adopted from the University of Minnesota Extension’s series on public engagement. Please keep these in mind, particularly when participating in workshops.

  • This is a public discussion, not a debate. The purpose is not to win an argument, but to hear many points of view and explore many options and solutions.
  • Everyone is encouraged to participate. You may be asked to share what you think, or we may ask for comments from those who haven’t spoken. It is always OK to “pass” when you are asked to share a comment.
  • No one or two individuals should dominate discussion. If you have already voiced your ideas, let others have an opportunity. Be aware that men in particular may need to actively make space for women to speak. When you speak, be brief and to the point.
  • When you speak, state your name and where you live. In a public meeting, it is helpful to know who is speaking as well as where they live in the community.
  • One person speaks at a time. Refrain from side conversations. Pay attention to the person speaking. If you think you will forget an idea that comes to mind, write it down.
  • Listen to and respect other points of view. All of us bring information and ideas to contribute. People are more likely to contribute if they know they are respected.
  • Do your best to understand the pros and cons of every option, not just those you prefer. Be as objective and fair-minded as you can be.
  • Seek first to understand, not to be understood. Ask questions to seek clarification when you don’t understand the meaning of someone’s comments.
  • Be an active listener. Listen closely to other people’s remarks.  Empathize with them, where possible.  Look for things you have in common with them, or things you can learn from them

These will help everyone get the most out of these sessions.


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