Guidelines for Fruitful Dialogue

A work-in-progress. Feedback encouraged.

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal: Straw Man

These guidelines are aspirational and nobody is expected to flawlessly follow all of them all of the time. They’re our attempt to articulate the spirit of a friendly and diverse community that is forming at Each guideline requires honest buy-in from everyone involved and active participation in them because they have no power of their own. This is an invitation to think about and help give shape to the invisible guidelines we choose to follow.


  1. Always use respectful language, even when talking about people or groups that aren’t present.
  2. Don’t posture or post opinions as facts. Make your case and invite disagreement.
  3. Use language (and silence) that invites dialogue so that quieter people can enter the conversation.
  4. Be willing to be wrong. Be excited even! It means you’ll be more right going forward.
  5. If someone has broadened your perspective on a topic, let them know.
  6. Don’t pile on against someone. If you see that happening, help restore a friendly dynamic even if you disagree with them.


  1. Consider the possibility of unfamiliar and scary ideas. Ideas can’t bite.
  2. Seek to understand alternative viewpoints before stating your own.
  3. Ask neutral clarifying questions if you think you might be missing something.
  4. Accept strong emotions as they are expressed. Don’t interpret them as attacks, but rather invitations to inquire further about something clearly important.


  1. Great questions create room for great answers. Don’t ask questions that you think you already know the answer to — ask open-ended questions and aim to be surprised.
  2. Make an honest effort to find an existing answer before asking someone.
  3. Only ask questions that can be addressed by people in the conversation.
  4. Listen generously.


  1. Speak only for yourself and your own experiences. Don’t try to interpret other peoples’ experiences other than to confirm them.
  2. When answering questions, make sure the question is addressed to you. If it’s not meant for you, don’t answer it.
  3. Don’t speculate how other people or groups are thinking. Invite them to speak for themselves.


  1. Challenge us to think, feel, and be better versions of ourselves as individuals and as a community.
  2. Suggest improvements where you see things not working. Even better, volunteer to fix them!
  3. Ask for kind and direct feedback. Ask before delivering kind and direct feedback if the person wants it and how they’d like to receive it.

Leave a reply if you have any suggestions for improvement, or to share how you’ve articulated your own guidelines.