Helpful phrases and strategies for participating in group discussions
Dear collaborative discussion friends,
This week we are highlighting an activity that helps participants develop strategies that enable them to share their thoughts in a group discussion with confidence, as well as humility. They reflect on what might hold them and others back from participating with confidence and what methods they can use to move past these obstacles. Participants also explore how they would like to contribute to discussions and what they would like to gain from them.
This activity is contributed by Jack Byrd Jr., Professor of Industrial Engineering at West Virginia University and President of the Interactivity Foundation, and is one of the many activities in the Culturally Responsive Collaboration Module.
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This week’s activity:
Using phrases and strategies to more confidently express and share thoughts in a discussion
This activity helps participants explore the reasons why they hesitate to participate in discussions. It introduces them to ways of changing their thinking, useful phrases and other strategies that will help them engage in a discussion with confidence, while expressing their ideas in a non-threatening and collaborative manner. Participants are also invited to develop their own discussion goals and strategies to help achieve them.
Prepare for the Activity
Provide participants with index cards or, if doing this online, ask them to have a few with them to use during the activity.
Break into Small Groups and Generate a List of Obstacles
Begin by inviting participants to break into small groups (4-6 ppl) or pairs. Ask them to create a list of reasons that stop people from openly expressing their thoughts and ideas in a group situation, such as in a class, at work, or at social events. Provide some examples to help spark ideas, such as:
- A sense that your ideas may sound foolish
- Being intimidated by others
- Discouraged by the tone of the discussion
Encourage participants to think of individual or internal reasons as well as external ones, such as characteristics of the group or situational factors that influence whether they choose to participate in a conversation.
Brainstorm Strategies to Overcome Obstacles
Next, ask participants to brainstorm methods they can use to move past or change these internal and external barriers. Share some examples to help participants generate ideas, such as:
- Think about why you were invited to the discussion. When you realize that you have a perspective that others are interested in, that may help boost your confidence.
- Prepare ideas you want to share in advance of the discussion. You may have information or data that others will find interesting.
- During the discussion, take notes to keep tuned into the discussion. A good way to do this is to place the person’s initials along with a brief recap of what the person said (i.e. JT: “need a rationale that anyone understands”).
Discuss What Participants Want to Contribute and Gain
Invite participants to discuss the following questions:
- In general, what insights do you want to share with others in collaborative discussions?
- What insights would you like to gain from others?
- What perceptions do you want to create in the minds of others about your contributions?
- What contributions do you want to make to the tone and effectiveness of the discussion?
- How do you want others to articulate about the ways you contributed to the conversation?
Individually Craft Personal Discussion Goals and Share
Ask participants to reflect on their discussion and craft three personal discussion goals for themselves based on the insights they gained. Once they have written these goals down on an index card, invite them to share their goals with their small group.
Introduce and Generate Discussion Phrases
Share the following phrases with participants, which can help them when they are having trouble entering a discussion:
- “I would like to build on what (name) said”
- “I have information that may be helpful”
- “I have another perspective that may be helpful”
- “Let me share an idea and get your reaction”
- “Here is what I’m hearing”
Explain to them that using these phrases will help them express their thoughts and ideas in a way that frames them as contributions to the conversation, rather than assertions. Invite participants to now generate a few phrases of their own as a group.
If there is time, participants can also develop ways to show their confidence and interest in a conversation through body language, such as:
- Sit or stand with hands folded
- Nod or don’t nod head
Commit to Intentional Practice
Invite participants to now add some of the phrases and strategies they find useful to the index card with their personal discussion goals on it. Encourage them to use this card as a guide before participating in future discussions. Ask them to continue adding additional goals and strategies to this card as they participate in more discussions.
The full description of Activity 4.8 Expressing Beliefs with Confidence & Humility includes reflection questions, a practice journal prompt, and additional resources to help participants dive deeper.
If you try out this activity, please share with us what you think:
We hope this toolkit activity helps participants express their thoughts, beliefs and ideas in discussions with confidence and humility.
- Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago is organizing Guanacaste 2023: The Transformational Listening Conference, from October 5 to October 7, 2023. We are excited to share that Dr. John G. Igwebuike, the founder of Guanacaste: The Lead Listening Institute, and one of our Collaborative Discussion Coaches, will be incorporating part of the Collaborative Discussion Toolkit in the conference this year. All are welcome! Learn more and register here.
- The National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation 2023 will take place from October 13-15 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Interactivity Foundation, including the Collaborative Discussion Project, will be holding sessions during this event and we look forward to seeing you there. The cost to register is $580, with a discounted rate of $300 for students. All are welcome! Learn more and register here.
- We are now accepting applications for our Collaborative Discussion Coach Training NCDD Pre-Conference Workshop. Space will be limited. It will take place on October 12th, 9 am – 3 pm at the conference hotel (lunch will be provided). Learn more here. Apply here or share this link with those who might be interested.
- We are now accepting applications for our Pilot Coach Training for Undergraduate Students which will take place this fall. Space will be limited. The dates for this training have been updated. It will now begin on September 26, 2023. Visit our website to learn more and view the complete list of dates and times, which are also shown on the application. The application deadline has also been extended to September 10, 2023. All undergraduate students who are interested can apply here or you can share this link with students who might be interested.
Looking forward to collaborating,
Ritu Thomas & the Collaborative Discussion Team