Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0319, October 9, 2007

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This week's article, Using Quaker Dialogue, submitted by Dee Kelsey and Pam Plumb of Great Meetings, Inc., lays out the purpose and practice of quaker dialogue to facilitate equal participation and deeper listening. This is a great approach to use when facilitating a group of diverse stakeholders working to build agreement in a situation where some people talk easily and often, while others rarely speak.

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Steve Davis
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The Point

Using Quaker Dialogue
To promote equal participation and careful listening.

Intervention Skill

  You are facilitating a group of twelve stakeholders working to build an agreement about a long-term conservation plan. The group is made up of local elected officials, land owners, and members of local land trusts as well as professional conservationists. Your experience is that some people talk easily and often, while others rarely speak.

Key Question: What participation tool can I use to get thoughtful participation from each member of the group? 

Suggestion: Named for the Quaker traditions of equality, listening and allowing time for silence, the discussion method called Quaker Dialogue promotes equal participation and careful listening. It allows quieter members of a group to get the floor and helps people move from forming rebuttals to listening carefully.  

Explain the process to the group:

  • Go around the room, asking each person to speak in turn. 

  • No one interrupts the person speaking.

  • No one (including the facilitator) summarizes or makes comments on another’s contribution until everyone has had a chance to speak.

  • Silence between speakers is encouraged, so that the previous speaker’s comments can be absorbed.

  • Anyone is free to pass. The facilitator will come back to those who passed and offer another opportunity to speak.

  • After everyone has spoken, the facilitator may summarize the “sense of the group”, ask the group what they learned from listening to one another or open the floor for discussion.  

  • The facilitator will intervene, if necessary, to maintain the above process.


Example: Your group of stakeholders has strong and disparate ideas about priorities in the conservation plan. Several group members have been very vocal for and against certain ideas. The group needs to slow down and hear one another's thoughts. You decide to use Quaker Dialogue to encourage deeper listening. First, frame the question or issue to which people are responding, e.g., "What do you consider the top priorities in the plan and why?" After explaining the purpose and process of Quaker Dialogue, go around the room offering each person the opportunity to give his or her thoughts without interruption. If someone interrupts a speaker, stop them and remind them to hold their thoughts until all have spoken.

Before opening the floor to questions and discussion, check with the people who passed during the first round to see if they want to speak.

Listen for the underlying agreements, hopes, concerns or key issues being expressed as people speak.  These are what you want to reflect back to the group, not a detailed summary of what everyone said.

Remember:  This process works best with a group of 15 or fewer members. Though it doesn't have to take long, it requires an unhurried environment.

About the Authors. Dee Kelsey and Pam Plumb are authors, facilitators, trainers, coaches and founders of Great Meetings Inc. This article comes from their monthly newsletter that you can sign up for at Pam and Dee can be contacted at: or 1-888-374-6010 (US and Canada) or 207-773-0487


I’m interested in hearing your perspectives on this topic. Reply to this email and let me hear from you!


Great Meetings, Great ResultsGreat Meetings! Great Results, by Dee Kelsey, Pam Plumb

This book is 15% theory, and 85% practical tools and techniques. Anybody responsible for facilitating any kind of meeting will find this book to be a treasure trove of helpful ideas, and welcome wisdom. It's light-hearted and easy to read. I'd be comfortable giving it to somebody quite inexperienced in running meetings, but also found much that spoke to this seasoned practitioner.

As the authors note in their introduction, "Meetings take planning and preparation to be successful. Agendas need to be designed carefully ... Managing a meeting takes a host of facilitation skills and a full bag of process tools." This book addresses all these needs in a very direct manner. --Arthur Fink--


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In the Spotlight

Putting Out Brush Fires...

How to intervene in
difficult group situations

Learn how to effectively
intervene when things
heat up in your groups

Self-Guided 5-Hour Teleclass...

Do non-stop talkers, silent groups or dramatic conflicts ever knock your meetings off track? These meeting situations take a toll on a group’s ability to work together and cost time and money. This 5-hour teleclass, taught by Dee Kelsey and Pam Plumb, authors of Great Meetings! Great Results, will increase your ability to know when and how to intervene effectively in difficult situations to get your meetings back on track. Each class includes a short content presentation, discussion, demonstration, participant exercise, debrief, and discussion of application. This course if for anyone who facilitates, manages, teaches, mediates, coaches, counsels, directs any group.

Benefits to you for participating in this Training...

Increase your ability to know when and how to intervene in difficult situations.
2. Gain confidence to manage challenges with ease so your meetings will be more productive and more fun.
3. Take the course at your own pace by listening to the course on your computer or MP3 player and follow along in the downloadable workbook.

Putting Out Brushfires Training Agenda...
Here's what you'll be learning and doing during the course...

Day one: Introduction to each other and the course

  • What is a “brush fire”?
  • Why does intervention matter?
  • What are our values for framing interventions?

Day two: Know yourself and assess the situation

  • Staying grounded in the face of difficult situations
    • Gaining insight into your personal reactions to brush fires
    • Knowing how to get and stay grounded
  • Assessing the situation
    • Introduction of the Great Meetings! Intervention model
    • What to look for when considering an intervention
    • What questions to ask to determine if an intervention is needed

Day three: Step into the situation: interrupting

  • Different ways to intervene
  • Interrupting as one key tool
    • Cultural and personal frames on interrupting
    • The Art of interrupting
  • Application of the technique to your own situations

Day Four: Step into the situation: other intervention options

  • Review of Intervention model
  • Examples of other interventions
  • Choosing the right intervention
  • Choosing the right level of intervention
  • Application of the techniques to your own situations

Day Five: Help the group move on and prepare to prevent difficulties

  • Moving on from the intervention
    • Understanding what the group needs
    • Choosing tools
  • Good preparation: essential to preventing difficulties
  • Parking lot issues
  • Questions and answers
  • Wrap up and final evaluation

Also included with your training...
In addition to the training described above, you also receive:
1. A downloadable version of the book, Great Meetings! ($25 value) and a 20-page workbook to serve as resources in the future ($15 value)
2. Access to the RealAudio version of the training ($69 value).
3. Articles and resources around using Improv in leadership and facilitation:

- Steps for negotiating conflict in a group.
- Meeting Assessment checklist: Questions to ask during the client interview.

Self-Guided Version
If you'd like to learn this material at your own pace and on your own schedule, you can purchase the pre-recorded audio version of this teleclass complete with the learning guide. You'll be provided with access to recorded offerings of the five-hour teleclass that you can listen to at your own pace and follow along in the learning guide is used in the live class. Click here to purchase for $79.

(MP3 & Real Audio)

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Self-Guided CD
The Compact Disk (CD) version comes with all of the self-guided features listed above, together with CD's you'll receive by mail that you can listen to anywhere you have access to a CD player. Click here to purchase for $89.

(CD/MP3 and Real Audio)

Click here to purchase the CD/MP3 Version for $89
plus $4 Shipping and Handling

Your instructors

facilitatorsAbout Dee Kelsey. Dee has been facilitating groups since her teenage years. She turned her early interests into more formal work both as a trainer and personnel representative at Hewlett Packard and as a mediator and trainer of mediators for the city of Palo Alto, California. In addition to her work with Great Meetings! Inc, she has been principal of Dee Kelsey and Associates since 1985. She has worked nationally to provide organizational development, facilitation, process consultation, mediation, and training services to hundreds of clients ranging from small work groups to large corporations.

About Pam Plumb.
Pam discovered during her years as a City Councilor and Mayor of Portland that effective meeting planning and facilitation made a big difference in meeting outcomes In 1991, she created Pamela Plumb & Associates which serves a wide range of non-profit organizations, businesses and government organizations with process design, facilitation, training and organizational development. She is known internationally for her process work and training in municipal governance. Membership Option

Become a member of premium member and register for this teleclass at half price in addition to a host of other items and benefits. An exceptional value. Click here for details.

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