Chapter 3

Shared Norms

Questions to think about while watching this section:

  • What is the purpose of setting norms for a conversation?
  • What are some norms that you would think to include in a conversation of this sort, with law enforcement officials and civilians?
  • How might facilitators set norms for a conversation in a way that is neither overly restrictive nor overly vague?

Discussion questions to ask after watching:

  • Toby says that if the group gets off track or strays from their norms, one of the roles of the facilitators is to remind the group of the communication agreements. How might they have suggested to the group that participants themselves can remind each other of the communication agreements?
  • Danielle and Toby list nine communication agreements that are each distinct from each other. What are some of the factors that contributed to the lengthy nature of their list? How might facilitators shorten their list and ensure that they are communicating a concise set of norms that the participants can remember?
  • Why do Danielle and Toby choose the term “communication agreements”, a term that is quite different than conventional nomenclature? What are some other names for what they call “communication agreements”, and why might facilitators use those terms instead?
  • When Danielle asks if anyone has any questions or things that they would add to the list, one participant offers “I-Statements” as a norm that he would like to add. Danielle’s reaction is to immediately add his suggestion to the list of communication agreements. What might she have done to ensure that the group actually understands and agrees to this amendment to the list?
  • Danielle and Toby encourage the group to refrain from criticizing or seeking to persuade others. In using the word “criticize”, what behaviors were they hoping that participants would refrain from? How did they hope that participants would handle disagreement?
  • Danielle and Toby use the word “amateur” to encourage people to be forgiving of themselves and others throughout the dialogue. What is your reaction to the word “amateur”?

Key learning points:

  • Setting norms for the conversation can be a real opportunity to describe various forms of participation to the group, giving them examples so that they are more prepared to engage.
  • Facilitators can and do play a role enforcing the norms that they establish at the start of the conversation. Similarly, facilitators can encourage the participants themselves to take ownership over the conversation and remind each other of the norms they agreed to.
  • A lengthy list of norms can be the result of co-facilitators not wanting to say no to each other’s ideas, especially when they are working together for the first time. It can also feel important to be very precise with shared norms when the topic is a contentious one and the participants are new to each other. That said, participants are less likely to retain a long list of norms. Facilitators can stick with about four or five norms, explaining what how they understand each one so that they are really clear.
  • It is important for facilitators to check in with the group about stated norms for. Firstly, this is necessary because participants might not understand what the norms mean, in which case facilitators should be prepared to clarify. And second, checking in is necessary in order to establish the list of norms as something the group can actually agree to. Facilitators could say to the group, “Are we in agreement about these norms for today’s conversation? If anyone has any concerns, please voice those. We want to make sure that we all share a general framework for our discussion.”
  • Facilitators can invite participants to criticize each other’s ideas while also encouraging them to be respectful, curious, and compassionate towards each other.
  • Using the word “amateur” to invite participants to be forgiving of their mistakes in the conversation can sound derogatory and might suggest that “professionals” do not make mistakes at all. Another way facilitators might encourage vulnerability and forgiveness in the group is to use the phrase “be raggedy” and suggest that participants be open and also forgiving towards each other when they make mistakes.
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