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May 23, 2012 / compassioninpolitics

Improving your small group discussion skills

After a deep experience coaching debate over a number of years as well as some readings in the literature on creating fair and win-win negotiations I would suggest the following:

1. Research both sides. This is the best way to understand the claims, arguments, data, perspectives, stakeholders and interests on both sides of a discussion. Background research in terms of history and culture is also helpful.
2. Beginning with the end in mind.
3. Establish agreements and assumptions. Clarify where similarities and differences lie.
4. Try to establish a mutually beneficial objective (or highest value or set of values to which you are appealing).
5. Analogies, metaphors, and re-framing can all help add to the discussion.
6. Contrast can create great clarity.
7. The art of distinction and nuance–this is often a means of contrast and specificity.
8) Keep thinking why. At a certain point you may run out of whys…but its an important skill to address when comparing claims.
9. Great questions. This can help uncover agreements and assumptions.
10. Deep listening. This is massively important in the discussion, dialog, and investigation process.

You might also look to the literature on small group communication literature. Also, practice helps as does reflection and dialog with friends on the issue (as a roleplaying or simulation exercise or just to increase your ability to engage intelligently in complex issues). Attention and reflection–paying attention to detail–can’t be overlooked.

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