Conscious Conversations Guide: Community Virtues and Agreements
Conversations can be adventurous places of learning, understanding, and connecting. We also know they can get dicey at times—especially with topics like relationships, loss and grief, and personal transformation. Even so, we at Interfusion share the conviction that these topics are important and deserve the space they don’t often receive.
To provide a shared foundation for us to enter conscious conversations together, the following guidelines will serve as our community agreements—providing an offering for all who enter these spaces to uphold and model.
We may not agree on everything, but in gathering, we choose to agree on this:*
- I will grant you welcome, and I thank you for the welcome you grant me.
- I will show up, be present, and be open to creating this experience together.
- I will speak and listen with truth and love, agreeing or disagreeing with respect and kindness.
*Cited from The People’s Supper
When we truly listen to another, we show up in that moment as an ally, inviting a space where understanding and healing can occur.
- Listen generously. Listen not only with your ears, but also with eye contact, your heart, and your intuition; giving the speaker your entire attention.
- Listen with curiosity. Ask curious, open-ended questions that can help inspire expression or revelation for the speaker.
- Listen without an agenda. Attempt, as much as possible, not to project your experiences onto another person’s share.
- Listen as a companion, not a problem-solver. Listening is most generous when it doesn’t try to solve the other’s problems or pain (you can’t!), or offer advice. Ask for permission before offering advice (“Can I share something that works for me?”).
- Paraphrase and validate. Reflect back what you heard in a succinct way. It’s something people experience infrequently and can help them feel heard. Or, simply acknowledge the other person’s point of view. Offer phrases like, “That makes sense” or “Let me see if I got that, you said…”
- Thank others for sharing. Opening up can feel vulnerable. Thanking someone for sharing their experiences can go a long way in providing comfort and pushing away those dreaded vulnerability hangovers.
When we share from a place of honesty—while owning our experiences and maintaining our boundaries—we open into a space of healthy vulnerability.
- Use your unique voice. Speak about your own experiences, not on behalf of a group or community (“this is my truth,” not “this is the truth”). Use I statements or phrases such as “For me...” or “What’s that makes me think of is…”
- Take your share of the space, if you want it. People have different speaking styles and confidence levels. If you find yourself unable to get any “air time” in the conversation, make a nonverbal signal such as raising your hand or your index finger, or ask your partner to pause so that you can share. “Could you pause for a minute? I’ve got something to say and I would like a little space.”
- Tune into yourself and others. Tune in to how you’re feeling and share what’s comfortable for you. Listen at least as much as you speak. If you’ve been talking much of the time, pause to listen.
Kind Disagreement and Difference
We all experience things differently. Constructive expression of differing perspectives can help us develop resilience and better understand others.
- Check for understanding. When there is disagreement or difference, listen completely. Then, reflect back in your own words what you understood someone has said before sharing your perspective or how their words may have impacted you.
- Pause. If things get tense, take a few breaths in and out to settle and reset.
Conscious and Honored Boundaries
Knowing and expressing our limits, and reading those of others, honors and preserves the space we collectively create for conscious conversations.
- Set boundaries. Sometimes in connection with another, we tune in and feel a “yes” for the interaction. Sometimes we feel a “no”, or a “maybe.” In these conversations, our intention is to stay within the space of mutual “yes”—we want people to feel at ease with each other. When we feel a “no” arising, we can choose to relate differently by expressing a boundary: for example, asking to pause, changing the subject, or leaving the conversation.
- Honor boundaries. Honoring the other’s boundaries might include: thanking the person for expressing a boundary; practicing active listening to understand the boundary; asking for clarification or further explanation; and respecting when someone decides not to share, or asks to pause, change course, or end a conversation.
- Take care of you. This space is for you. If you need to step away at any time, feel free to do so without feeling the need to explain yourself. If you want to listen rather than share, let others know. If you need support, we’ll have Interfusion team members around the room to receive you.
- When in doubt, check in. If you aren’t sure if a comment or question will be too challenging, or if you think your conversation partner might be struggling, check in with them. For example, “May I ask you something about your religion?” or “Would you be open to hearing a different opinion?” or “Are you ok with how this is going? Would you like a pause?”
Please let the Interfusion Conscious Conversations Team know if you have any questions or concerns about these community virtues and agreements.
Lindsay Jean Bigda, M.Ed.
Conscious Conversations Director, Interfusion Festival