Close the dialogue. Give participants a chance to talk about the most important thing they gained from the discussion. You may ask them to share any new ideas or thoughts they've had as a result of the discussion. Ask them to think about what worked and what didn't. You may want to encourage the group to design a closing activity for use at each session. Provide some time for the group to evaluate the process in writing. A brief evaluation allows participants the chance to comment on the process and to give feedback to the dialogue leader. Remember to thank everyone for their participation.
Here's how to handle some challengingsituations.
The best method for handling challenging situations is to anticipate them and be prepared. Each interracial dialogue is a unique experience, providing new opportunities for the discussion leader. Even those who have been facilitators for many years are often faced with new problems requiring on-the-spot creative action. There are no certain answers; sometimes groups just do not go well, and other times all participants seem engaged and satisfied. The following scenarios present some possible challenges to the dialogueleader and offer some guidelines for handlingthem.
The group is slow to respond to theprocess.
How to Handle It: Check to determine whether your directions have been understood. You may need to restate the purpose of the process and how it should be carried out. You may also have people who resist participating because of "power" issues in the group. If so, invite them to participate to the degree they feel comfortable. Assure them that the purpose of the process is to share different insights, experiences, and personal reflections on the topic. However the members choose to participate is valuable. It is also important to make sure members are physically comfortable.
One or a few members dominatethe dialogue.
How to Handle It: The instructions you give to participants about respecting time limits are helpful. Invite participants to be conscious of each person having time to share his or her reflections, ideas, and insights. It may be helpful to invoke the ground rule "It is important to share time equitably" when a few individuals dominate the discussion. Another solution is to tell the group you want to hear from those who have not said much. Participants will look to you to restrain domineering members. Sometimes, this situation happens when those dominating the dialogue feel they have not been heard. Restating the essence of what they've expressed can show that you have understood their point of view.
The dialogue leader feels strongly about an issue and has trouble staying unbiased.
How to Handle It: The dialogue leader needs to remain on task, which is to guide the process and to elicit and respect all members' thoughts. If leaders really respect the views of others, show interest and curiosity for other experiences and viewpoints, it will not be difficult to keep personal ideas from over-influencing the dialogue. This is not to say that the dialogue leader never shares with the members in the process. However, you must guard against moving from a discussion leader into a "teacher/lecturer" mode.
A participant walks out of a groupfollowing a heated conflict.
How to Handle It: Sometimes the conversation may become heated. Other times, people may seem to be on the verge of fighting; and sometimes they may even walk out. The best way to deal with conflict is to confront it directly. Remind participants that they were told initially to expect conflict but that they agreed to respond to differences respectfully. The dialogue leader should always stop name-calling, personal attacks, and threats. This is one situation where you should readily appeal to the group for support. If they accepted the ground rules, they will support you.