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3. Facilitator and Participant Dos and Don'ts

Do be an active and engaged listener. Respecting the ideas of each participant is a key element of a successful Socrates Café. Be open to what people have to say even if you disagree. The facilitator needs to let the group know that putting down others is absolutely taboo at a Socrates Café.

Do encourage participants to offer specific examples that back up what they take to be a universally accepted view. The facilitator should try to get them to support their perspectives with cogent, well-constructed, reasoned views.

Do question the perspectives offered by others and try to examine any perceived logical inconsistencies. The collective goal is for all participants, not just the facilitator, to become a more expert questioner.

Don't allow the dialogue to become a one-on-one back-and-forth between facilitator and participant (or between one participant and another). Remember: this is a community of philosophical inquirers. So a good facilitator should involve everyone else at every turn.

Do make sure everyone has a chance to speak. Invite but do not pressure quieter participants to contribute to the dialogue.

Do be receptive to unexpected and unfamiliar responses. Facilitators should avoid steering the dialogue in a preconceived direction, as if they know better than others what the answers, or questions, should be. Facilitators are there as fellow inquirers, nothing more or less, but you do have a special role, which is to inspire each person further to articulate and discover her perspective than she would normally have the time or take the time to do. This means you must reject the teacher and guru model, at least for this setting, and instead be an incredibly careful listener who is there to ask those questions that will further inspire participants to reveal their unique worldview.

Don't browbeat a participant or put him on the spot in a way that makes him uncomfortable. You should nudge participants into articulating their perspectives as clearly as possible, but if someone doesn't have a response to your further prodding, move on to other participants.

Don't strive for consensus. In the version of Socratic inquiry practiced at Socrates Café, it doesn't matter if everyone begins and ends a dialogue with disparate perspectives. There's never any need to try to force any sort of agreement.

Do remember the Socrates Café is just one version of philosophical discourse, and it might not work for everybody. For those who don't seem satisfied with Socrates Café style of discussion, encourage them to form their own groups so they can promote their own kinds of philosophical inquiry.

Don't try to bring the discussion to any sort of artificial closure. Most Socrates Café dialogues last about two hours. (If held at a coffeehouse or any venue that sells food and drinks, it is of immense benefit to the owner if you take a ten-minute "pause for the cause" after an hour or so of discourse.) A Socrates Café is considered a success when participants leave a discussion with many more questions than they had at the beginning.

Do NOT ever worry about "attendance figures", or judge a gathering's success, by how many people show up. Whether one person shows up, or a hundred, the only measure of success should be whether there's a thoughtful exchange between participants. Too many Americans obsess about numbers. It's amazing how many people who have said they're committed to starting a dialogue group quit after just one attempt, when they find that at least 20 or 30 people haven't shown up from the get-go.  This is a very sad statement about their genuine commitment to fomenting thoughtful discourse and deliberative democracy, but also betrays a mindless and counter-productive obsession with numbers. There were many weeks when SPI's founders were getting started when one, two, five -- and even zero  a couple of times -- others showed up. They were all great gatherings (even when zero show, you can have a nice little dialogue with yourself!). What matters is commitment. If you keep showing up on a regular basis, at the same time and the same place, people will start to come, slowly but surely. Eventually, your gathering is likely to become a community mainstay. And you'll also have set an example for others of commitment and dedication over the long haul, in a time and clime when most think the only virtue is instance success and gratification (though just the opposite is true -- gratification should come from hanging in there over the long haul, and seeing your dreams becoming realized via dedication and perseverance in spite of obstacles).

Copyright 2001 - 2009

Please note that Socrates Café® and Philosophers' Club® are our registered trademarks. This helps make sure that the names are used for the volunteer, nonprofit, community-creating purposes for which they are intended. We particularly ask that facilitators and coordinators steer clear of using this venue in any way to promote for-profit endeavors. Why?

Don't ever use readings or any other directive ploys to start a group discussion. This is not supposed to be a didactic directed group process. One of the ways we steer away from the traditional "philosophy club" model is that there is no teacher or guide or guru to lead the discussion, but rather a facilitator who simply makes sure that the group as a whole picks a question among those proposed by the group and then makes sure that the dialogue is well-distributed among participants, so that everyone who cares to can take part. A directed or suggested reading beforehand is much too controlling, and too much like other types of groups that are claiming to bring philosophy out of the classroom, but end up bringing the classroom model along with them. While AFTER the dialogue, it is quite appropriate for anyone who took part to suggest to others that there's certain books they may want to take a look at that relate to the topic discussed, so participants can get a more keen sense that they are part of a wonderful questioning tradition that includes great thinkers across the ages and disciplines, this should never be done as a way to jump-start the dialogue itself. A Socrates Cafe is meant to bring together as broad a cross-section of people as possible -- emphatically including people who possibly can't read, but who surely have very rich experiences to share in the course of a dialogue -- so directed readings would only be exclusive and elitist and rather snooty, and so anathema to the ends of a Socrates Cafe discourse.
1. How to Get Started?                   2. How to facilitate a Socrates Café?                3. Facilitator and Participant Dos and Don'tsSC_Tips_One.htmlhttp://www.google.com/ig?hl=enshapeimage_6_link_0shapeimage_6_link_1
1. How to Get Started?                   2. How to facilitate a Socrates Café?                3. Facilitator and Participant Dos and Don'tsSC_Tips_One.htmlhttp://www.google.com/ig?hl=enshapeimage_9_link_0shapeimage_9_link_1