1. Listen deeply and allow space:
Commit to compassionate listening. Commit to receiving what your neighbors offer. Commit to a space where everyone can feel heard. Welcome moments of silence and stillness to let words and thoughts sink in. Silence can be sacred. If someone shares something that is particularly painful or emotional, resist the urge to respond in a way that could unintentionally dismiss their experience. Instead, you might say, “I hear you and I see you,” or, “Thank you for sharing; you’re not alone.”
2. Lean into discomfort:
Self-reflection is the foundation of greater understanding and relationship. When one experiences discomfort, it opens the possibility of asking “Why am I upset about this? What values or beliefs are at stake?” This self-questioning can shift the focus from judging or reacting to others to learning more about what is fueling the intensity of your reaction.
3. Speak from your own experience:
Commit to sharing what you know to be true from your lived experience. Do not make personal attacks, speak for other people, or state generalities or stereotypes. Speak only from your personal experience. Keep in mind that vulnerability begets vulnerability.
4. Assume positive intent/stay accountable to impact:
Although what a person says may be received as disrespectful or even attacking, assuming there was no intention to cause emotional harm opens the possibility of respectful engagement and profound learning. Stating one’s truth about the impact of what was said without attacking can also open the possibility of respectful engagement and profound learning. Believing and accepting that person’s truth about the impact of what was said is to be accountable to the relationship.
5. Respect privacy and maintain confidentiality:
Respect each other’s boundaries and privacy by acknowledging that what you share in your conversation is to be confidential, unless permission is granted to share it otherwise. Be mindful of your own personal boundaries—you’re encouraged to step into a vulnerable space, but not an unsafe one.
6. Strive for a balance of voices and perspectives:
Remember that you are called to both speak up and step back and listen. Be mindful that you are doing both gracefully throughout the conversation. To do this, you might follow the practice of mutual invitation. When you finish sharing, invite another person to share. They can either share or say, “Pass for now,” then invite someone else to speak.
7. Expect and accept non-closure while being willing to circle back:
Sometimes it takes a while for each of us to articulate what we truly want to say or to find the courage to say it. If someone has shared something particularly vulnerable or raw, consider circling back with that person at another time. Check in to see if they wish to say more after having some time and space away.