When Making a Contribution
Please demonstrate these qualities in all your contributions.
- Clear. Above all else, be clear. Use short sentences and accessible terminology, define specialist terms and identify the implications and consequence of your ideas.
- Concise. Whenever possible, be short; when this is not possible, provide a summary and outline to help people access the content. Attempt to break down a complex subject into distinct parts: we do not handle complexity well, we struggle to discuss complex issues constructively, and we rarely have the time to plow through lengthy and complicated material. Provide links to further details, which people can follow if they are interested.
- Compassionate. Be aware of the impact of your words on others – on others in the conversation and in the group, but also on people not present, especially the weak, the poor and the voiceless.
- Creative. Focus on what you have to offer: your perspective, your experience, and what you have found to be helpful from other people and other places.
- Constructive. Don’t focus on what is wrong with other people and their ideas, focus on what is right and helpful with yours; don’t talk about what you dislike, talk about a better alternative; don’t talk about what other people should do, talk about what you can do, and how we can encourage others to do what is needed.
- Calm. You may care passionately about something, but extreme language (unless you are talking about yourself) does not draw other people in.
Please seek these goals when you have a discussion.
- Win the other person. The aim is not abstract but human: it is not to prove one belief superior to another belief, but to help both you and the other person grow in your understanding of the subject matter.
- Reach agreement. The aim is not to defeat the other person, but for the two of you to to reach a place of agreement where possible.
- Achieve understanding. What does the other person believe, and why? Before everything else, if you have clarified and deepened your understanding of the other person and their beliefs, you have achieved something worthwhile.
- Clarify the content. If you cannot reach agreement on everything – which is probably unlikely – then seek to identify where you do agree, or come to agreement. Identify where you still disagree, and why. If the area of disagreement becomes smaller, it becomes more manageable and easier to address in the future.
- Help the other people. Remember that other people will be listening to the discussion, so please seek to help them benefit from the encounter as well.
Please adopt these strategies when you have a discussion.
- Assume best intentions. Trust the other person’s motives are good, even if you see their beliefs and practices as bad.
- Respect the other person. Take their beliefs seriously; accept their stance as valid; listen to and respond to what they actually say, not what you think they mean.
- Check your assumptions. Ask questions to clarify, don’t assume you know things about the other person and their beliefs. And even if you do know – still check your assumption: some things may have changed, and the other people listening to the discussion will not all share your knowledge.
- Play fair. Work with all the facts as far as possible, not just the convenient ones; don’t contrast your ideal with the other person’s reality; don’t assign guilt by association.
- Remain focused. Every discussion touches on many other issues, but you can’t get anywhere if you try to deal with everything at once. Provide links to related discussions rather than going over the same ground again.