Tips for Productive Discussions

CLEARLY EXPRESS IDEAS

Presenting views clearly, effectively and persuasively helps prevent confusion and frustration for your listeners. Clearly stating positions and staying in context lowers the risk of misinterpretation that arises when discussions drift into unexpected territory.

SEEK AND SPEAK FROM COMMON GROUND

When there is disagreement, it’s often helpful to identify shared beliefs or values. This approach can also help reduce conflict between participants who will more likely see themselves as partners rather than adversaries.

EFFECTIVELY USE SUPPORTING MATERIALS

Researching a topic ahead of time makes the speaker more knowledgeable and, therefore, more credible with audiences. Becoming an effective evaluator of source material is crucial to making an effective argument. Are the sources credible? Are they timely and pertinent to the issue at hand? Are there reasons these sources may or may not be relevant?

FAIRLY CHARACTERIZE ALTERNATIVE VIEWPOINTS

Controversial topics often lead to polarized viewpoints, and we can have difficulty seeing outside our perspectives. It may feel enticing to caricature or distort another’s views, but mischaracterizations create contentious atmospheres, make arguments less persuasive and diminish credibility, since inaccurate depictions are easily disproven.

MAINTAIN OPENNESS TO NEW IDEAS

While commitment to principles is praiseworthy, so too is the capacity to demonstrate flexibility. The ability to adjust positions as discussions unfold displays thoughtfulness and a willingness for compromise.

LIMIT RELIANCE ON PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

It is natural to rely on experience and background to understand our immediate world. However, this perspective can lead to conflict when participants may be unable to see past their own life experience and prejudice unknowingly.