What underlies Conversation Café’s success?

What underlies Conversation Café’s success?

The Circle—Sitting equally in the circle together, there is a sense of community gathering around a center. In this center is a space for the group’s thoughts, feelings, insights and threads of meaning to weave together in a new conversational tapestry of co-creation.

Introductions—When people introduce themselves very briefly with their name and why they are participating, it allows for an authenticity that is free of ego. There is no need for titles, labels, life roles, or other pseudo-identities to start the conversation in a heartfelt way.

Agreements—The agreements are read to provide guidelines, or boundaries, for a civil conversation and deeper listening. Everyone’s agreement to follow them establishes a common ground for participation. The host’s role is to support the group in following the agreements and create a safe space.

Process—Describing the process provides an overview of where the conversation is going, how it will be, and when it will be over. The actual dialogue is unknown but the ending time and structure are clear.

Talking Object—The talking object arouses curiosity and invites a kinesthetic experience. It can also stimulate deeper speaking and listening. While talking circles have probably been part of many ancient cultures, we must acknowledge that the inspiration for contemporary circles have come from our own Native Americans. While we use what we call a talking object, it is based on the talking stick that the Native Americans used. We do NOT call it a talking stick out of respect for the sacredness that the talking stick represents in their culture. Also, we are known to have a creative bent when it comes to selecting talking objects, e.g. tennis balls, timer cubes, stones, etc. We wish to share this in the spirit of the following quote by Elder William Commanda, Kitigan Zibi, Quebec: “If we cease sharing our knowledge and stories, we forget that which is taught to us (as spiritual, mindful, heart filled bodies; our Beings).”

Rounds—The two rounds give opportunities for everyone to participate without the pressure of having to speak since one can pass when the talking object is given to them. People get a sense of how others are relating to the topic without having to reveal a great deal about themselves. A group field of energy connecting each other can form in this process of the two rounds, emphasizing why both rounds are important.

Open Dialogue—In the open dialogue there is no goal of solution, agreement or action to be taken, simply an experience of human sharing and connectedness. The focus is on relating and not on a task. As the conversation is co-created, new meanings, interpretations, implications, understanding, and possibilities emerge. The questions can become more important than the answers.

Final Round—The final round provides a time for reflection and an opportunity to express what was challenging, meaningful, or inspiring for each individual. It also evokes a genuine connection with the group as a whole.

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