How to Promote Discussion
Having Good Discussion is one of those things that is a key defining feature between a memorable, good time, and a super awkward experience. I’m sure everyone can think of times, Bible studies, tutorials, parties, or even that one lecture where the lecturer tried to get a discussion going and it fell flat on its face, where discussion goes wrong or just doesn’t happen.
So, what can we do to try and stop this train-wreck from happening?
Set good vibes from the beginning
Ensure that there is a time of introductions and catching up with one another, maybe have an intro question for people to discuss. A controversial “Big Question” about something you share in common, such as “What is the best sauce for Macca's chips?”. If the mood or vibe is set well in the beginning, people are more likely to feel open and free to discuss things later on when it is important. If you don't yet know the people in your discussion group, now's the time! Do it before you get down to the nitty-gritty
Embrace the chaos
It may seem weird, but the more chaotic things are, the more comfortable people feel about piping up and contributing. It’s total and utter chaos at times, but there is noise, which is better than having everyone on mute, wondering whether they’ve got enough reason to unmute themselves or not wanting to be the highlight as the only person talking. Don’t be afraid to go deep into the rabbit warren of chaos, but if you do, make sure you’ve got someone who can pull you out. The mighty tug boat to lead you out of the chaos harbour into the sea of freedom and fruitful discussion.
Change up the Group Size
Just like when doing a row of high fives, where you go up high, down low and in the middle, change up your group sizes and how you prompt your people. Give different sizes, gauge where people are at. I’m sure you’ll find that some are comfortable in all, some only in 1, and it’s never the same group size that makes people more comfortable. Because everyone is different in how to respond and react to life and discussions, you should provide them opportunities that reflect that! It could also introduce them to new people, which is an added bonus. The more people in the group you know, the more likely you are to feel comfortable in a group. This notion of comfort is explored more where we talk about how to promote community.
This may surprise some people, but talking in public can be hard, particularly when the options of things to talk about are just too broad. How can we know what to say when there are too many things to say? Paradox of choice in action right there. If you provide prompting questions or thoughts, this actually helps people because it limits what they can say, therefore providing them an opportunity to speak.
Are you as friendly and outgoing with the randoms down the street as with your close friends or family. I’d be thoroughly surprised if you were. That is truly a skill. I suspect the reality is that you are much more open with people you know and are comfortable with, so therefore we need to make that the reality for our gatherings. There are many ways of doing this, and we'll explore more in a different post, however remember you need to build community, hang out, socialise, play games, get to know one another so that you are comfortable with one another.