Courageous Community Dialogue – Sharing Our Stories & Seeking Common Ground


"Courageous Community Dialogue" is a process to facilitate meaningful conversations across differences within groups and communities. It offers guidelines to create a respectful environment for sharing personal stories, offering deep listening, and discovering commonalities that transcend disagreements.


The goal is to build connections across divides, to see each person's humanity, and find the "common unity" that can bind us despite our differences. The dialogue process can be used in any community setting where people are willing to have courageous and respectful conversations about important and difficult issues.


The approach involves participants taking turns as speakers and listeners. The speaker shares a personal experience related to the discussion prompt, while the listeners practice reflective listening without interrupting, advising, or debating. A second step is for the listeners to acknowledge and play back what is heard rather than share their own thoughts. Each person gets a chance to share, be heard, and acknowledged. The process culminates with finding agreements. The process reflects inclusion, respect, acknowledgment of our unique experiences, and a desire to find common ground. It moves from expressing individual views to empathetically discovering commonalities. It draws on traditions like Ubuntu that emphasize both individuality and interconnectedness. The process unfolds as follows:
  • Establish Principles: Establishing ground rules, explaining the intentions and process. Have a question or an issue prompt for the conversation – For example, "If you could talk to your 14-year-old self, what advice would you offer?" "What has been an experience that has shaped your perspective on ___________?" If the group is more than four people, create sub-groups of 3-4 individuals that represent the diversity of the group relative to the issues or differences represented.
  • Offer Presence: Listeners offer a full presence. It may be useful to start with a moment of silence or a centering practice like focusing on the breath for a minute before the sharing begins.
  • Sharing: One person in the group starts sharing, while others listen without interruption. You can offer a targeted amount of time like 5 or 7 minutes for each speaker to manage the time.
  • Listening: Deep listening is an act of respect and generosity that opens the door to deeper understanding and appreciation. Listening openly and attentively increases empathy and understanding of diverse experiences and transcends barriers of identity and bias.
  • Playing Back: We tend to want to respond to what we hear by sharing our own thoughts but here we just acknowledge what others have said. It is not about agreement, only witnessing their experience and story. This step is transformational because we feel appreciated, respected, and heard and thereby tend to be more open to the experiences and expressions of others.
  • Rotate: Create space for everyone to speak, be heard, and be acknowledged in turn, repeating the above steps.
  • Connect the Dots: Once everyone has had a chance to speak, we can focus on areas of commonality. In many typical conversations, we tend to focus on differences. Here we focus on what's common in expressed needs and interests. Relationships and trust come from respect and a sense of connection. When we know others' stories we have a deeper appreciation for them as human beings who may be much like us.
The process can be repeated with a group moving from easier conversations to more difficult ones. 

Sample Activity

Use the CoMetta I See You site ( to allow people to pick an image/question they wish to speak to. Use the above process in the description to share, listen, acknowledge, and bridge perspectives and experiences.


 A Leadership Forum Community Incubation Team and CoMetta developed this methodology.

Target Audience:

  • Community organizers
  • Facilitators 
  • Educators

Got feedback or input? Please share!