Share |


Mouse-over links
to view options

Shared Purpose Home Page

Email address *
Password *
I agree to treat all participants with respect *
Remember me?
Recover your password

Appreciative Interviews

Building Trust - Principles for Group Process
Draft suggestions and possibilities for improving our communications

As a diverse group of people who generally have not met each other in person, who are considering some of the most complex and high-tension issues in the USA, we are dealing with some unusual challenges.

We are coming together to build a politics of trust and collaboration - and it seems clear that we ourselves must be examples of how to create and maintain this new politics of trust and collaboration.

To help avoid misunderstandings and bad communication, it is probably a good idea to review or suggest some guidelines for cooperation and working together. This afternoon, I am composing these ideas off the top of my head, based on a few phone calls and my own experience. This "set of principles", too, we can edit and compose as a group.

  1. Please do your best to keep your word. If you tell someone, or the group, that you will do something, please do your best to do it. And if you are not able to do it, please get back to the people to whom you said you would do it, and explain to them why it was not possible.

  2. Please remember that we are dealing with hot-button issues, and we are coming together in the context of a "clash of paradigms". Different people have different assumptions about what is appropriate, or "the" correct way to do something. It's a good idea to be aware of these potential differences, and not become upset or angry or disappointed if other members of the group have different assumptions or expectations.

  3. Please do your best to maintain and build trust. We need to work together in a spirit of trust - so that we know we can depend on one another, and that the words we speak to each other will be spoken and received in an honest way. Where a misunderstanding arises, please look for a simple and "non-blaming" explanation. It is often the case that our methods of communication have simply become somewhat confused, or some words in an email have not been interpreted the way the author intended. Ideas expressed in phone calls can often be unclear. Let's not allow the innate uncertainty in our work together to become a source of injury or division.

  4. When listening, try to understand. Everybody has a "private dictionary". Words and concepts and ideas do not mean the same things to everybody. Be patient, and try to understand the intended meaning of the speaker, rather than imposing your own meaning, or assuming that your meaning is "the" meaning.

  5. Maintaining trust in a group requires discretion. Some thoughts and ideas can be shared among all members of a group, and some thoughts should not be shared, and should kept private, or just held as confidential among a small sub-group. We don't need strict "rules" on this point; we need to maintain a sensitive discretion and exercise wisdom.

  6. There are new concepts of "leadership" emerging. Let's take our time to explore and consider these different models, and do our best to understand why somebody presents or believes in a particular model, even if it is different than our own. Some people believe in an "absolutely bottom-up" approach to forming group decisions and policies. Others see a natural and appropriate role for "leaders" to make decisions for the group in a "top-down" way. Both of these approaches have a place in American democracy as it is currently practiced. Let's be sensitive to these alternatives and consider them carefully.

  7. Be a friend. Treat people with respect. See the best in them. Bring out the best in them. Honor the goodness in them. Let's meet each other, and work together, in the context and energy of that goodness and "bestness".

In email communications

  1. When responding, try to genuinely communicate. Read what the other person wrote. Try to understand it. Engage their comments -- don't just blast off your response.

  2. Avoid "inflammatory rhetoric". Don't use "loaded" language. Be careful how you express things. Misunderstandings very easily arise in email, for many reasons. Don't be surprised by these misunderstandings. Just help avoid them by recognizing how common they are, and not falling into these predictable traps. Try to understand how the other person sees things, and why they are saying what they are saying. Don't impose your "private dictionary" on the conversation. Figure out what the other person is trying to say.

  3. Treat everybody with respect
On conference phone calls
  1. Conference calls can be noisy and confusing. Be careful to take turns. Don't dominate the conversation. Let everybody who wants to speak get their chance. Listen.

Additional Insights: Conversation Cafe

Just a few draft thoughts off the top of my head,
Bruce Schuman, June 29, 2010, 12:15pm, Santa Barbara CA.

Suggestions gratefully solicited.

Note: great ideas for group dialogue and discussion in a context of disagreement or "diversity" can be found on the web site for the National Coalition on Dialogue and Deliberation --


From the Transpartisan Alliance

Transpartisan Principles

Transpartisanship acknowledges the validity of truths across a range of political perspectives and seeks to synthesize them into an inclusive, pragmatic whole beyond typical political dualities. In practice, transpartisan solutions emerge out of a new kind of public conversation, that moves beyond polarization by applying proven methods of facilitated dialogue, deliberation and conflict resolution. In this way it is possible to achieve the ideal of a democratic republic by integrating the values of a democracy -- freedom, equality, and a regard for the common good, with the values of a republic -- order, responsibility and security.


  • Respect other points of view
  • Value other points of view
  • Open-minded to others
  • Listen well to others
  • Suspend judgment of others
  • Build bridges with others
  • Give others benefit of doubt
  • Value cooperation

The Co-Creator's Agreements - From The Co-Creator's Handbook, by Carolyn Anderson and Kathleen Roske


    I agree to use this purpose as a guide for my actions.

    I agree to tell my truth and to communicate with others openly and honestly.

    I agree to respect, honor and acknowledge other's ideas and contributions and attune to their deepest meaning.

    I agree to honor each person's process, acknowledging that everyone, including myself, is making the best possible choice or decision we are capable of at that moment of choice or decision.

    I agree to take responsibility for getting acknowledged.

    I agree to come from a sense of cooperation and caring in my interactions with others. I support the group in exercising their unique, individual and collective potential, knowledge, skills, creativity and intentions.

    I agree to take responsibility for and actively participate in my personal transformation.

    I agree to take responsibility for maintaining the resonance of the group.

    I agree to take complaints and upsets to the person with whom I can resolve them at the earliest opportunity. I agree to look for that within me which creates a reaction. I agree not to criticize or complain. I agree to be solution-oriented.

    I agree to consciously honor my commitments to the group and to myself.


Boy Scout Law

A Scout is

  1. Trustworthy
  2. Loyal
  3. Helpful
  4. Friendly
  5. Courteous
  6. Kind
  7. Obedient
  8. Cheerful
  9. Thrifty
  10. Brave
  11. Clean
  12. Reverent