Better Conversations: Inviting Others to Contribute


The invitation was extended, and she accepted.

And when she offered her previously unspoken opinion, the entire conversation temporarily shifted.  Some echoed her sentiments, building on them from their own perspectives.  Others gently probed to learn more. In the end, the insight she shared produced a new action item for the group.

How did this happen?

It began with a simple invitation, one I extended as the facilitator, but it could have come from anyone in the discussion: "Before anyone else responds, I'd love to hear from some individuals whose voices have yet to be heard in our large group conversations."

Inviting others to contribute is a gift, one that any individual in a group can extend. Used strategically, such invitations can ensure diverse voices and perspectives are heard and decision-making discussions are more robust. 

Here are some of the invitations I often find myself extending in my facilitation work, frequently prefaced with "I'd love to hear from anyone who ... "
  • might see things a bit differently.
  • hasn't spoken much yet today.
  • can offer relevant historical perspective on this topic.
  • has a perspective we haven't considered yet.
  • can offer a specific example of this concept.
  • can distill our discussions to this point.
  • has some data to contribute to this discussion.
  • knows how others might have handled a similar situation.
Extending invitations to others, either to individuals by name or open to all, can help bring into a discussion whatever an individual feels would help make it better.

As I have written before, effective facilitation helps make it easier for a group to do its work.  Anyone can, and everyone should, see doing so as a part of their responsibility ... regardless of their role or tenure in a group.

Like any invitation, those invited retain the right to RSVP "No, thank you." Accepted invitations, however, often bring forth new thinking and feelings that shift conversations in very beneficial ways.

In your next meeting or discussion think about what invitation (and to whom) you might extend to improve the quality of the conversation.