HOW TO HOST A CAFE
by Cedar Barstow, www.rightuseofpower.org
Why Have Conversations?
Good conversations are like a walk in the woods. They inspire, they bring forth new information and new ideas, they connect people in both heart and mind, they challenge old or stuck thoughts, and they deepen relationships. We know the feeling that attends a good conversation.
Good conversations are art, and as art, they require skill and attention. Good conversation is a counter-balance to the kind of interaction that technology brings us--good for information transfer and staying in touch, but not so good for sharing depth and feelings in a group.
Exhilarated by several good conversations at the Conversation Cafes at the Subud Congress in Puebla, Mexico in 2014, conveners Victor Margolin and Suzannah Rosenthal and a small committee decided to encourage local Subud groups to create their own Conversation Cafes.
What Resources are Available Here?
Take a little wander through this excellent Subud website designed by Susannah: www.conversation-cafe.com. You'll find a number of interesting conversation topics with supporting information. Each topic is curated by the topic leader in order to keep the information relevant and of high quality.
How Do You Set Up a Conversation?
Simply invite your group to join in a Conversation Cafe at a set place and time. Pick a topic. Gather and introduce the topic through a video or short talk. You might recommend that the conversers look at these things ahead of the conversation. As Facilitator, offer guidance about how to proceed and take leadership in helping people stay focused, attentive, and respectful.
The Conversation Cafe format has been well developed and now take place all around the world. Here's an easy-to-use and thorough website with excellent material about conducting conversation cafes:
How Can You Facilitate a Conversation?
In one of our conversations, Ruslan Feldman identified three kinds of communication. The first two are more familiar and ordinary. A monologue is when one person speaks at length, sharing information and/or experience. This would include a lecture, an argument, or an introduction to a discussion. A dualogue is when people spark off each other sharing information and/or experiences. A dualogue may range over a large number of topics and the dualoguers comments may or may not be directly related to each other's contributions and/or trying to understand the other person(s). This is actually what we most often call having a talk or having a discussion. The goal of a Conversation Cafe is the third type: a dialogue or, here, a conversation. Conversation aims at inspiration, common excitement, depth, and new ideas. Conversation occurs when each participant is attentive, curious and respectful of the others. Conversers feel like they have increased their understanding and connection with each other and with the topic.
Please visit www.conversationcafe.org for basic principles and much guidance for participating in and facilitating conversations.
In addition, here are a few ideas that we have put together as suggestions for you to try out to keep the conversation interesting, inclusive, and deep.
Suggest a few seconds of silence between speakings.
Ask the speaker a question that might take him or her or the topic deeper, before offering your words.
Connect your comment to what the previous speaker said by using a bridge sentence like, "My version of this is. . . ."
Directly make space for the quieter participants. "Let's make some space for people who haven't spoken yet."
Use a bell or hand-wave to indicate to someone that his or her time is up. Make this signal clear to all as part of your beginning.
Have a good time and may Conversation Cafes enrich and support your Subud community!