COMMONS CAFE GUIDELINES


(These guidelines were used in the first Commons Cafe series.)

1. This is a cafe, not a “meeting”. Feel free to get up, move about, get more coffee, even change tables. If the conversation at another table sounds more interesting than the one at yours, maybe you can get invited to their table! The goal is to engage other people, especially people you don’t know.

2. Get to know your table-mates. Let them get to know you.

3. You are not restricted to the questions on the card, or even the topic of the evening. The questions are designed to stimulate conversation; your engagement with your table-mates is more important than following the cards.

4. There is no one right answer. No one has a monopoly on the Truth. Don’t preach. Honor other points of view. There are many ways to look at things.

5. You are searching for collective wisdom. There is something all of you believe to be true; explore for that common ground. Stop, look and listen. Don’t jump into things, reflect a little bit, look at what is really going on, listen to each other. Have this be a really reflective process.

6. Don’t hog time; recognize that this is a conversation, not a lecture. Be self-conscious about your use of time. When in doubt, ask your table-mates if you are taking too much (or too little) time. Each person at your table is a “leader” of the conversation.

7. Conflict is an opportunity and an invitation to understand someone at a deeper level. Don’t hide from conflict. On the other hand, don’t get bogged down in conflict. Try to understand through the conflict. Look for an inclusive common ground. And, if you are really stuck, remember that the purpose of the cafe is not for people to agree, but for people to engage and relate to each other.

8. Conversation is not always easy and smooth. You do not have a responsibility to agree with people. You do, however, have a responsibility not to attack other people. (Challenging ideas is different than challenging people.) The Commons Cafe is a safe environment to air views; make sure you respect others.

9. Own your own feelings. If something comes up that generates a deep emotion in you, just acknowledge it. Take a “time out” if you need it. There is no need to “rescue” anyone from their feelings.

10. Be careful in dealing with confidential matters; consider the people at the table your “good friends”, not your lawyer or your confessor. You can always “pass” on any question.