Doha Debates– Don't settle for a Divided World
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Better Conversations

Better Conversations provides an in-depth introduction to skills necessary to conduct difficult conversations about potentially sensitive local and global challenges. With these skills under your belt, you can productively engage with the Doha Debates materials.

11 lessons

01. Prepare

how to get along
play
03:55
video

How to Get Along With Other People

Watch this introductory video and learn how to get along with other people.

Introduction to Better Conversations:

How to Get Along with Other People

 

Purpose

This activity introduces the concept of Better Conversations and provides an overview of the essential skills necessary to have better conversations. 

 

Skills

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Social awareness
  • Relationship skills

 

Instructions

1. Distribute sticky notes to all participants. Ask participants to answer the following question. They should put each answer on a different sticky note. Each participant should have at least three answers, but there is no maximum. 

  • What are the qualities of a productive conversation? 

 

2. Once they are finished, distribute another set of sticky notes to participants, this time of a different color. Ask participants to answer the following question, following the same instructions as above:

  • What are the qualities of a productive conversationalist?

 

3. Have participants come together in groups of three or four and share their answers to each question.

 

4. In their small groups, ask participants to organize their sticky notes into categories.

 

5. Once participants have finished sharing their answers, discussing them and categorizing them, they should share out with the larger group. 

 

6. Explain to participants that they will be hearing from a conflict resolution expert, Dr. Govinda Clayton, about skills that make a productive conversation.

 

7. Show the video How to Get Along with Other People.

 

8. Ask participants to reflect on the video. Consider using the following prompts:

  • What stood out to you? What surprised you? 
  • What do you agree with? What do you disagree with?
  • Have you ever used any of these steps in a conversation? If so, which ones? How did it go? 

 

9. Arrange participants into six groups. Assign each group one of the following steps of a better conversation as outlined by Govinda. 

  • Setting goals: Figure out what you want and why it’s important to you.
  • Do a self check-in: How do you feel?
  • Active listening: Figure out others’ perspectives.
  • Ask questions.
  • Look past positions and focus on interests.
  • End on a positive note: Show gratitude.

 

10. Instruct each group to prepare a short presentation about the step they were assigned, using the following questions as a guide:

  • What does the step entail?
  • Give an example of what the step might look like in practice.
  • What are some of the challenges one might face in carrying out this step?
  • Do you agree that this is an important step in having a productive conversation?

 

11. Invite participants to share their presentations and ask questions.

 

Debrief

12. Give students five minutes to reflect on the group work they did in this session and how they might have used or could use the steps laid out by Govinda. Use the following prompts:

  • When you worked in small groups with your peers, did you find yourself using any of Govinda’s steps to facilitate the conversation? If so, which ones? How did it work? If not, do you think any of those steps could have been useful to you in your group work?
  • Did you notice any of your peers using any of these steps? If so, which ones? What was it like? If not, do you think it could have been beneficial for peers to use these steps in their group work? Why or why not?
  • Moving forward, do you think any of these steps could be useful in group projects? Which ones?
  • How can you be intentional about using these steps when having difficult conversations?

 

13. Invite students to share their responses and encourage them to speak about peers anonymously (especially if speaking critically).

 

Pro tip: Participants will learn more about these steps in the rest of the activities in the prepare section. If your time is limited, consider only using this activity.

 

02. Goal Setting

BC_Setting Goals Clean
play
02:22
video

Better Conversations: Set Clear Goals

ACTIVITY:

Watch the goal-setting video

 

Purpose

This activity introduces participants to the concept of Better Conversations and the importance of establishing a set of clear goals for the conversation or debate. This activity can be conducted online through a videoconferencing platform such as Zoom

 

Skill in action

  • Self-management

 

Instructions

1. Begin by asking participants to think about a conversation they have had that was particularly unproductive. What made the conversation unproductive? Give participants two minutes to write down their answer. Ask participants to share out loud.

 

2. Ask participants what might have helped to make the conversation more productive? Write their ideas on the board. At this point, the goal is to brainstorm any idea without attaching judgment or evaluation to it.

 

3. Explain that this video from Dr. Govinda Clayton will introduce one way to make conversations better.

 

4. Show the video Set Clear Goals.

 

5. After the video, ask participants to reflect on the video. You may ask questions such as:

  • What stood out to you?
  • What surprised you?
  • Do you agree with the video and why?

 

You may also want to ask more concrete questions about the video, particularly around the three reasons Govinda outlines for setting a goal.

  • Govinda suggests that setting and sharing goals for your difficult conversation helps you to learn about the other person’s perspective. Why is that important? How might understanding the other person’s perspective change the outcome of your conversation?
  • Govinda notes, “You can hope that the other person will understand what you are saying, and perhaps be moved, but that might not always happen. So focus on what you can control.” What can you control in these situations? What is out of your control?

 

6. Have participants return to what they wrote about their unproductive conversation. Ask participants to imagine they were going into that conversation again and have them write down what their goal for the conversation is. Use these questions to guide them:

  • Do they think that having a goal might have helped make the conversation more productive? Why or why not?  
  • Do they think it would have been difficult to share that goal with the other person in the conversation? Why or why not? 
  • How might they have been able to work together to find a way through the conversation and forward?

 

Debrief

7. After participants have thought independently about goals for their unproductive conversation, bring them together for a full group conversation. Invite participants to share their thoughts on goal setting in particular and more broadly about having better conversations. Consider using the following questions:

  • Govinda says that “setting out to change someone’s mind rarely works.” If that’s the case, what is the purpose of engaging in better conversations?
  • How does having a goal help you in your better conversation?

03. Emotions

BC_Emotions Clean
play
02:49
video

Better Conversations: Manage Your Emotions

ACTIVITY:

Watch the emotions video

 

Purpose

This activity introduces participants to the concept of Better Conversations and the importance of identifying and communicating one’s underlying emotions, which may be driving the conversation. 

 

Skills

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management

 

Instructions

1. Ask participants to think about a conversation they’ve had in the past when emotions got in the way of having a productive discussion. As a facilitator, be prepared to share your own example.

 

2. Ask participants to identify how that emotion manifested for them in their body language or voice and write each one down on a sticky note. For example, raising one’s voice, crossing arms, rising stress level, racing heartbeat, increased breathing, shutting down, sweaty palms, derogatory language, etc. The idea is to focus on how emotions in an unproductive conversation manifested, not on the subject of the conversation itself. Remind participants that they are identifying how the emotions manifested for themselves, not the other person.

 

3. Ask participants to place their sticky notes on a wall or board. Arrange them into categories as they emerge. For example, “Emotions manifesting in…”

  • Language and words
  • The body
  • My voice

 

4. Clarify that difficult conversations are often associated with emotions, including passion and excitement. Emotions are not necessarily bad; they are important to negotiations, persuasion and sharing ideas. Looking back at the board, point out how emotions that are not regulated or managed during difficult conversations can manifest in ways that derail one’s focus on the topic and prevent us from listening carefully and respectfully to the other person. This has happened to all of us, but being self-aware of one’s emotions and managing them can help us have better and more productive conversations.

 

5. Show the video Tips to Manage Your Emotions.

 

6. Ask participants for their feedback and thoughts about the video. For example:

  • What was one thing that stood out to you?
  • What does Govinda mean by “hidden emotions”?

 

7. Govinda says that words like should, bad, good and wrong are manifestations of hidden emotions when we want to blame someone or tell them that they are wrong. Ask participants if they agree or disagree. What are some other phrases or words that might show up in difficult conversations in which emotions are getting the best of us? Add them to the board or wall with sticky notes.

 

8. Remind participants that these manifestations are signs of underlying emotions. Being able to identify them in ourselves will help us manage our emotions and channel them productively in the conversation, rather than derailing it.

 

9. Ask participants to go back to the board and identify one or two manifestations of emotions that they want to manage in difficult conversations. Ideally, have participants choose from different categories (e.g., one body and one language). As a writing exercise, have participants reflect and identify how they might control the emotion. For example, “When my voice starts to rise, I will take a deep breath and pause.”

 

Debrief

10. Ask participants to identify common strategies for managing emotions. What are some productive ways of managing emotions when it manifests in language, in the body, or in our voices?

 

11. Emotions are always present in our interactions with others, especially during difficult conversations. Can you provide examples of how emotions in such conversations can be used productively?

04. Stories

BC_Telling Stories Clean
play
01:45
video

Better Conversations: Understand Their Story

ACTIVITY:

Watch the storytelling video

 

Purpose

This activity encourages participants to think about the stories that we tell about ourselves and how those may contribute to personal conflict

 

Skills

  • Social awareness
  • Relationship skills

 

Instructions

1. Begin the discussion by asking participants: What does it feel like when your side of a story in a conflict is not understood? 

 

2. Show the video Understanding Someone’s Version of a Story.

 

3. After the video, ask participants to reflect on the video by asking the following questions:

  • What stood out to you from this video?
  • In the video when talking about how to have a better conversation with someone, Govinda Clayton says, “Address your problem as the gap between these two stories.” What does this mean?

 

Debrief

4. Use the following questions to debrief:

  • What are some strategies to better understand someone else’s story?
  • Why might it be challenging to accept that our stories of the same circumstance might be both different and true?
  • If we accept this, how might it change the way you speak with others in difficult conversations?

 

05. Listening

BC_Master Listening Clean
play
02:29
video

Better Conversations: Mastering Listening

ACTIVITY:

Watch the listening video

 

Purpose

In this activity, participants will understand what it means to listen and how active listening can contribute to having better conversations.

 

Skills

  • Relationship skills

 

Instructions

1. Begin a discussion with participants by asking the following:

  • What makes a conversation go really well?
  • What does it mean to listen?
  • What is the difference between hearing and listening?
  • What does it mean to be heard?

 

2. Show participants the video Improve Your Listening Skills.

 

3. After watching the video, ask participants to reflect on the video. Consider the following prompts for the reflection:

  • What did you like about the video?
  • What stood out to you?
  • What surprised you?

 

4. Ask the following questions to review the video and more deeply understand the value and skills of listening:

  • In the video, Govinda Clayton says: “Don’t say you understand. Say you want to understand, and ask questions to prove it.” 
    • What is the difference between saying you understand and saying you want to understand?
    • What kind of questions can you ask to show that you want to understand someone’s perspective?
  • Govinda encourages us to use our active listening skills to “imagine a world where both your stories can exist together.”
    • What do you think that means?
    • What are the challenges of imagining a world where conflicting stories can exist together? What are the benefits?

 

Debrief

5. Use the following prompts to debrief the conversation and video:

  • Has there been a time when you felt your conversation or perspective was misunderstood? If you could go back to that time, how might you incorporate some of Govinda’s advice to change the way you communicated?
  • Would you be willing to try the listening activity Govinda recommends towards the end of the video with the “worst listener you know?” How might you prepare for this challenge? 

 

06. Body Language

BC_Body Language Clean
play
03:19
video

Better Conversations: Body Language Matters

ACTIVITY:

Watch the body language video

 

Purpose

This activity introduces participants to the role of body language in difficult conversations.

 

Skills

  • Social awareness
  • Relationship skills

 

Instructions

1. Ask participants what they know about body language and how paying attention to someone’s body language can be useful in a difficult conversation.

 

2. Show the video Why Body Language Matters.

 

3. After the video, ask participants to reflect on the video by asking the following questions:

  • What stood out to you from this video?
  • What surprised you about the video?
  • In the video, Govinda alludes to the cultural element of body language, noting that keeping eye contact about 70 percent of the time is unique to Western culture. How do you think body language differs between cultures? How do you think those differences might impact a conversation? What can you do if you misread someone’s body language?

 

4. Ask the following questions to check comprehension and clarify key points from the video:

  • When having a difficult conversation with someone, what can we learn from their…
    • Legs and feet?
    • Arms?
    • Mouth?
    • Eyes?
  • Govinda talks about mirroring in the video. What is mirroring, and how can we use it to strengthen our conversations?

 

Debrief

5. Use the following questions to debrief:

  • Is body language something you have paid attention to before, either yours or someone else’s? 
  • What do you think it would be like to pay attention to body language in a difficult conversation? What would be the benefits and challenges?

 

07. High Note

Dr. Govinda Clayton,
play
02:08
video

Better Conversations: End on a high note

ACTIVITY:

Watch the ending on a high note video

 

Purpose

In this activity, participants learn the best ways to end a difficult conversation and why ending on a “high note” is so important.

 

Skills

  • Social awareness

 

Instructions

1. Ask participants how they think a difficult conversation should end.

 

2. Watch the video 3 Steps to End a Conversation on a High Note.

 

3. Use the following questions to reflect briefly on the video:

  • What did you think of the video?
  • What stood out to you about the video?
  • What surprised you from the video?

 

4. Check comprehension and review the content of the video with the following questions:

  • According to the video, what is the difference between ending and completing a conversation?
  • Govinda suggests that we should end conversations on a positive note. Why is that?
  • Govinda lays out three steps to completing a difficult conversation. Review them:
    • Recap and reframe.
    • Identify what’s been left unresolved.
    • Acknowledge and appreciate the contribution of the other person.
  • Ask participants to reflect on those three steps and what they think of them.

 

Debrief

5. Use the following questions to reflect on and debrief the video:

  • Do you agree that it is important to end on a positive note? Why or why not?
  • What do you think it would be like to intentionally end a difficult conversation on a positive note? What would that contribute to the conversation?
  • What do you think would be challenging about ending on a positive note? What could you do to overcome that challenge?

08. Epilogue

Dr. Govinda Clayton,
play
03:22
video

Better Conversations: Change your approach

ACTIVITY:

Watch the change your approach video

 

Purpose

In this activity, participants watch a video and identify three of Dr. Govinda Clayton’s tricks for improving difficult conversations.

 

Skills

  • Social awareness
  • Relationship skills

 

Instructions

1. Ask participants to imagine they are having a difficult conversation with a friend about a social or political issue that they feel passionately about. You disagree vehemently on one point and just keep arguing about it, seemingly unable to move past it. Ask participants to brainstorm what strategies they might use to move the conversation forward. 

 

2. Explain that they will be watching a short video where Govinda introduces three strategies to move past those sticking points.

 

3. Show the video Change Your Approach.

 

4. Use the following questions to discuss the video:

  • The first hack for a better conversation is to find common ground by focusing on interests and not positions. What does that mean? Can you think of an example of this?
  • The second hack for a better conversation is to reframe when you’re feeling attacked. What does that mean? Can you think of another example?
  • The third hack for a better conversation is to use deep breaths to get out of your head and focus on the present. What does that mean? How does that benefit you in a difficult conversation?

 

Debrief

5. Use the following questions to debrief the conversation:

  • What do you think of these strategies for better conversations?
  • What do you think are the challenges of using these strategies? What do you think are the benefits?

 

09. Engage

ACTIVITY:

Interest-based negotiation

 

Get together with your friends and hold an interest-based negotiation and see if you can find common ground among yourselves.

 

Purpose

In this activity, participants use their knowledge of positions and interests to engage in a simulation negotiation around the issue under study.

 

Skills

  • Responsible decision-making
  • Relationship skills
  • Systems thinking skills

 

Instructions

1. Get specific! To facilitate a productive debate, participants should home in on one element of the issue that they will discuss. For example, if the topic is about refugees, participants might focus on policies about refugee resettlement in the United Kingdom. If the topic is about gender equality, participants may focus on family leave policies for the workplace. This step of getting specific may be done by the participants or by the facilitator.

 

2. Divide participants into groups, where each group represents a different perspective on the issue. Give each group time to read and research in order to better understand their perspective. Each group should write some guiding statements on a flip chart. Each group will share their perspectives with the whole group.

 

3. Agree on an objective reality. As a whole group, participants should develop objective criteria that will guide their debate. For example, if they are discussing health policies, they may agree on World Health Organization (WHO) guidance as objective criteria for their debate. They may also agree that they will disregard guidance coming from one particular politician or political party. They may agree that it is important to uphold particular laws of the land.

 

4. In small groups, each group will return to their guiding statements that outline their perspective. They will now determine the interests that underlie their positions. The facilitator may want to review this concept from the prepare section and show the epilogue video about this.

 

5. Once each group has established its underlying interests, they will come together as a whole group and brainstorm every possible solution to the issue. At this point, there should be no evaluation or judgment — everything is on the table.

 

6. As a group, see which of these solutions aligns with the objective criteria you set. Any solutions that don’t align with the objective criteria should be removed. 

 

7. Next, see if you can locate one or more solutions that satisfies at least one interest from each of the different groups.

 

Debrief

8. Use the following questions to help participants debrief the activity:

  • What was this activity like? What was difficult? Why was it difficult?
  • Imagine this sort of negotiation was taking place among government officials and other policy makers, what might be different? What do you think would be the same? 
  • Based on this experience, what advice would you give to other people engaging in a negotiation process?

10. Reflect

ACTIVITY:

Noticing our empathy skills

 

After you’ve held your negotiation, take time to reflect on the process of listening to and empathizing with others. Integrate what you learned for Better Conversations in the future!

 

Purpose

Participants reflect on the development of their cognitive and emotional empathy skills after listening to other perspectives on the complex problem.

 

Skills

  • Self-awareness

 

Instructions

1. Discuss the meaning of empathy with participants. A common definition is “the ability to walk in another’s shoes” or to take someone else’s perspective. 

 

2. Ask participants to reflect on their discussions with their peers about the complex challenge and identify a moment when they were able to see another person’s perspective. As a group, discuss:

  • How did the activities and discussions help us understand how other people — including those we may disagree with — may be affected by a situation?
  • Rather than dividing ideas into “right” and “wrong,” how did thinking systemically about the challenge help us understand that there are multiple perspectives or truths to a situation?

 

3. Ask participants to reflect on their compassion for others who may not share the same perspective on the issue.

  • In what ways does thinking systemically help us attribute the challenge to systems rather than individuals to blame? Describe how this shift might change the way you see and interact with others in the future?

 

Debrief

4. Ask participants to journal using this prompt: In what ways have you been able to see things from another person’s perspective or walk in their shoes through the discussion? 

  • What surprised you about your ability to see things from their point of view?
  • What are some behaviors to show that you are an empathetic listener? 

 

5. In today’s world, social media makes it difficult to fully understand another person’s perspective. How might we be able to cultivate empathy in social media spaces? 

 

11. Act

ACTIVITY:

Applying our skills toward social change: Personal contract

 

Take a moment to write up a personal contract on how you will use these skills in the future. Now, take your Better Conversations into the world!

 

Purpose

In this activity, participants identify their core values and beliefs and consider how they will use the better conversation skills that they have learned to uphold those values

 

Skills

  • Self-management
  • Responsible decision-making

 

Instructions

1. Instruct participants to silently write down some of the values that are most important to them and things they strongly believe. This will vary by student.

 

2. Invite participants to get into groups of two to four and share their values and beliefs with each other. This may inspire participants to add or change their list, and that’s OK.

 

3. In their small groups, ask students to discuss how they might use their skills of better conversation to uphold those values and beliefs in their lives.

 

4. When the conversations wrap up, invite every student to draw up a contract with themselves. The contract should outline their core values and beliefs and the actions they will take to uphold them. Encourage students to make the elements of their contract specific and realistic.

 

Debrief

5. Use the following questions to debrief the activity:

  • What was it like drawing up this contract with yourself? Do you think it will help you uphold your beliefs and values?
  • Why do you think that people sometimes take actions that go against their values? Do you think skills for better conversations will help you stay true to your values? Why or why not?

About Deep Dive

Doha Debates hosts discussions on the world’s most pressing challenges to bridge differences, build consensus and identify solutions. In each moderated live debate, experts share their experiences and propose concrete plans. Doha Debates also offers digital resources such as videos and articles to help students build a deep understanding of the issues and to foster ongoing conversations.

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Better Conversations

About Deep Dive

Doha Debates hosts discussions on the world’s most pressing challenges to bridge differences, build consensus and identify solutions. In each moderated live debate, experts share their experiences and propose concrete plans. Doha Debates also offers digital resources such as videos and articles to help students build a deep understanding of the issues and to foster ongoing conversations.

Guide to using Doha Debates curriculum

Doha Debates curriculum may be used in a variety of ways. Each section will have an associated individual lesson plan.

It is possible to use one lesson plan of your choice, the lesson plan(s) that best fit your timeframe. However, this complete and comprehensive curriculum packet is designed to build on the previous sections and lessons.
The curriculum will focus around engaging students through the following techniques:

  1. Active learning
  2. Collaborative learning
  3. Discussions
  4. Increasing student motivation and participation
  5. Problem-based learning
  6. Use of effective questions
  7. Writing assignments

 

All of the lesson plans have at least one form of student engagement related to the lesson. Content can be tailored to most subjects.

Specific time allotments are outlined on the next page and will be found in each lesson plan within the Learning Plan section. You may use any part of the Learning Plan components.