Dialog

From the Quaker tradition, Claremont Dialog refers to a format in which the opportunity to speak passes systematically around the circle, in a similar manner to council circle. Friends may pass or speak as they choose. Silence for reflection often follows each contribution. This form encourages a focus on the issue at hand and minimizes the tendency for discussion to fall into a debate between individuals. The group starts with a period of quiet worship or meditation, long enough to “center down.” The leader briefly tells the nature of the dialog and explains the ground rules: this is a sharing of experience, not a discussion; we avoid analysis and theorizing; we respect what all share, and we refrain from making judgments; we do not probe or cross-question each other; we aim to answer with complete honesty and freedom, but if we do not feel free to answer a given question, we need not feel pressure to answer, but say “pass” [those that pass may be given another opportunity to speak after everyone else has spoken]. The leader begins, and then the conversation continues around the circle so that all feel they have a proper space in which to participate.

Here are some key points for using this method:

  • The speaking should be from feeling and experience, rather than from theory or opinion;
  • answers be made in turn rather than through volunteering; the choice not to answer be
  • fully respected; there be no discussion of what participants have shared and
  • furthermore, what is said be held in confidence; the leader take part as one of the group.