Tips for Talking
Step One: Preparation
1. For the issue I want to discuss, I have thought about it carefully and I have learned about both “sides” from accurate, balanced sources such as ProCon.org.
2. I have thought about what level of investment I have in this issue, whether my position is:
A. An idea I have (I’m not sure, but this is what I currently think)
B. A preference I have (I’ve thought about it and learned about it and I am leaning towards a certain side)
C. A faith claim or a value I hold
(I’ve thought about it deeply, learned about it, and I am firm in my own position on this issue)
3. I’ve identified who I want to talk to and I have asked them if they would be willing to have a conversation with me. I’ve asked them when would be a good time to talk.
Step Two: Time to talk and even more important, to listen!
1. Ask your conversation partner to share their thoughts. For example: “I’ve been thinking a lot lately about same-sex adoption and wonder what your thoughts are about that?” Say something that reduces tension: "I admire how thoughtful you are…” (be authentic here, tell the person why you chose them - it’s a compliment!).
2. Listen with curiosity.
A. You have asked them to share, let them talk, do NOT interrupt.
B. Be aware of your posture - are you inviting conversation or shutting it down?
C. Be aware of your emotions - is something hard to hear? File that away to consider later.
If someone is being a bully, see below.
D. Be aware of keeping track of what your conversation partner is actually saying.
E. Listen for points you agree with.
F. When your conversation partner has finished speaking, repeat a summary back to them and check for
understanding: “Does this sound right? Did I hear you correctly?” They will say yes or no and then explain.
G. Ask if there is anything else they want to add, and then ask any clarifying questions you have. Use “I”
language: “I heard you say…” not “You said…”
3. Your turn!
A. List some points of agreement you have, or float some ideas.
For example, using our sample topic: “I hear your care for children - I agree with you! Children need the
very best homes possible!” Look for and share what you agree with.
B. Make your point - if you have a point - with a story.
For example, in this scenario you are in favor of same-sex adoption. Don’t regale your conversation partner
with stats, work them into a story from your life. “My college roommate and her wife adopted a child….”
Tell a story about that, including in a salient stat about how the adopted children of same-sex parents
flourish, etc.. (do your homework!)
C. Include the point(s) that you have previously heard your conversation partner say and that you agree with.
E. Finish your story and wait for a summary and clarifying questions.
F. Go back and forth as long as it takes. If you are both enjoying sharing your thoughts and are responding to
each other with interest and curiosity, hurray!
If your conversation partner is NOT curious about what you think, that is their loss.
If you start to feel as if you are being bullied, very uncomfortable, or even start to feel unsafe, you should thank them for taking the time to talk with you and excuse yourself. You suddenly remembered an important phone call (or something). Just leave gracefully!
Remember that your conversation partner is sharing their opinions - and that you are, too! It’s not about swapping “facts” but rather about curiosity, learning from each other, and looking for agreement. Be authentic and be respectful.
If you know something is too tender for you to talk about, it’s best for you and for your conversation partner if you think about it and talk about it with friends and perhaps a helping professional before trying this.
Step Three: Now what?
1. You have asked and listened and learned and your conversation partner has, too.
What areas of agreement do you have? List them.
2. Now you can ask this beautiful question: “I wonder what we might be able to do together about (this issue)?”
To use our example, here are some sample areas of agreement:
You agree children should have the best homes possible.
You agree that qualified adoptive parents/guardians are important.
You agree that there are not enough qualified adoptive parents available.
What might you do together?
Help couples who may want to adopt learn how they could adopt.
Learn about adoption agencies in your area and who they serve (same-sex, faith-based, etc).
Connect people to adoption agencies that suit them.
Provide connections between people so that they can support each other during the adoption process.
Ask adoption agencies, ask adoptive parents what needs they have.
Isn’t it lovely!
In this example you have found that both you and your conversation partner care deeply about adoption. You don’t agree about same-sex couples adopting children, but that’s fine - you weren’t trying to change anyone’s mind (right?). Now you two can work together to help children get into the best homes possible, whether led by a same-sex couple, or not. And won’t everyone be amazed that you are doing this together? Hope will spread, flowers will bloom.
Have a story to share about Curious and Collaborative Conversations? Let us know! And: this tip sheet is just a start - want to go deeper? Learn more here and / or contact Rev. Marian Edmonds-Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org.