Democratising a conversation

Situation: In a group there is one person dominating the conversation, not leaving space for others and not asking questions. 

Ways to negotiate this

If there is an opening:

Ask the dominant speaker a reflexive question,
i.e. are you interested to know about how we started…..? Would you like to hear about our plans for….?

Ask someone else in the group a question directly.
i.e. Lisa how was ….for you? Nina what do you think about …..? 

Propose a structure to the discussion.
i.e. Suggest a framed question round on the topic. “Can you give 3 words for what the community needs?” This provides a contract of interaction that can be call on to be completed if one person takes over again. 

If they there is no opening:

Jump in.
Even if it is a very small pause and you know the person isn’t finished. i.e. “I’m just going to quickly jump in, because I realised this……..” 

“Excuse me, sorry to interrupt, Lisa I’m curious to hear what you think about this?” 

Try and change the setting.
Leave, excuse yourself to the bathroom. Maybe when you reenter you can shift the constellation and it’s focus. 
Propose you all change the space, i.e. shall we go inside, get a drink etc. 

Remove your affirmation as a listener.
Don’t nod or provide ‘hmm’s, stop any back-channeling practices. Try to remove your consent as a listener. This can signal to the speaker that the one sided dialogue is no longer being received. 

Start a gesture/movement with your hands. Open your mouth to begin talking.
This can act like raising your hand and indicates your desire to speak and it’s upcoming-ness. This can also redirect the gaze in the group allowing the focus to shift. Also if this is repeatedly blocked the situation can become more clear, one person is monopolising and deny others a voice. 

Sara Ahmed writes that “when you expose a problem, you pose a problem” (Living a Feminist Life). We often need to reassess the situation. You are not being impolite to ask for space in a dialogue. The impoliteness starts earlier, with the other person who is not there with curiosity, who is actively blocking others.

Funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media within the framework of the initiative NEUSTART KULTUR, aid programm DIS-TANZEN by the Dachverband Tanz Deutschland

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