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For those who have experience in group process, this post may seem pretty basic. Nevertheless I am including it in this series on dealing with conflict because some readers may not have that much experience leading group process. Even those who do may find something useful in this summary of 3 more basic tools for group conversation. In this post, I draw again on some resources described in Cool Tools for Hot Topics by Ron Kraybill and Evelyn Wright.
Conversation is innate to humans. You can rely on this as you invite people to join a conversation. Talking and listening to one another is something we remember; it’s what humans have done for thousands of years, so it’s deep in our species' memory. These days, because of the bad habits we’ve developed and the frantic pace of our lives, we may need to be reminded about slowing down, not interrupting, listening to each other and not instantly responding.
Talking Circle is a different kind of meeting than most modern people are used to. The focus is on deepening, exploring and learning together, not on getting things done or completing an agenda. It is possible, with expert facilitation and savvy participation, to do both linear and circular modes in one meeting. Talking Circles are also referred to as Talking Stick Circles, Listening Circles, Wisdom Circles, and the Council Process. If you have an agenda, you can often fit some circle into it. But remember that 'deepening and exploration' and 'getting somewhere' are very different energies.
“Socratic Seminar” is perhaps the most widely varied and commonly known name for a class discussion model in which the teacher poses questions concerning a text or idea, and students respond. No individual or organization claims ownership of the model, and most practitioners trace its history to the Platonic Dialogues, in which Socrates engaged his interlocutors in a methodical line of questioning. The work of Mortimer Adler, Robert Hutchins, and Dennis Gray are often cited as the sources of modern Socratic Seminar models. As it is used in the classroom, we have seen widely diverse models of discussion called Socratic Seminar.