Fellowship and Friendships, the Rotary 4-Way-Test

Conversation Guide

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In our current environment of miscommunication, misunderstanding and mistrust, what can we learn from the Rotary International principles and approach to fellowship and friendship leading to service above self? How can The Four-Way Test be a useful guide to better communication, understanding and trust with  both strangers and friends? The Four-Way Test asks us to consider the following four questions about what we think, say or  do:  1. Will it build goodwill and better friendships; 2. Will it be beneficial to all concerned; 3. Is it fair to all concerned; and 4. Is it the truth? We prefer to do business with people we like. What  would it be like to approach people as friends when we are addressing challenges and solving conflicts?

Let's Get Started!

Living Room Conversations offers a simple, sociable and structured way to practice communicating across differences while building understanding and relationships. Typically, 4-7 people meet in person or by video call for about 90 minutes to listen to and be heard by others on one of our nearly 100 topics. Rather than debating or convincing others, we take turns talking to share and learn. No preparation is required, though background links with balanced views are available on some topic pages online. Anyone can host using these italicized instructions. Hosts also participate. Some hosts may offer a Q & A after Closing.

Introductions:
Why We're Here (~10 min)

Each participant has 1 minute to introduce themselves.

Share your name, where you live, what drew you here, and if this is your first conversation.

Conversation Agreements:
How We'll Engage (~5 min)

These will set the tone of our conversation; participants may volunteer to take turns reading them aloud. (Click here for the full conversation agreements.)

  • Be curious and listen to understand.
  • Show respect and suspend judgment. 
  • Note any common ground as well as any differences. 
  • Be authentic and welcome that from others. 
  • Be purposeful and to the point. 
  • Own and guide the conversation. 

Question Rounds:
What We’ll Talk About

Optional: a participant can keep track of time and gently let people know when their time has elapsed.

Round 1:
Getting to Know Each Other (~10 min)

Each participant can take 1-2 minutes to answer one of these questions:

  • What are your hopes and concerns for your family, community and/or the country?
  • What would your best friend say about who you are?
  • What sense of purpose / mission / duty guides you in your life?

Round 2:

Fellowship & Friendships, the Rotary 4-Way-Test (~40 min)

One participant can volunteer to read the paragraph at the top of the web page.

Take ~2 minutes each to answer a question below without interruption or crosstalk. The group may choose to have everyone answer: A) whichever question speaks to them individually or B) the same question with an option to pass. Once everyone has answered, the group may take a few minutes for any clarifying or follow up questions/responses. Continue exploring with other topic or related questions as time allows.

  • When are you most comfortable in sharing your thoughts? In what venues or groups is this most likely to happen? When do you find it difficult?
  • What circumstances encourage you to strive for mutually beneficial actions rather than “zero-sum” outcomes? What happens when you do that and what happens when you don’t?
  • Where and how do you find friends and develop friendships? What do your friendships mean to you? What are friends for?
  • When have encounters with strangers enriched your life? What happened?
  • Since we don’t always agree on the right way forward, how do you know when your words are meeting the goals of benefit to all, fairness and truth?

Round 3:
Reflecting on the Conversation (~15 min)

Take 2 minutes to answer one of the following questions:

  • What was most meaningful / valuable to you in this Living Room Conversation?
  • What learning, new understanding or common ground was found on the topic?
  • How has this conversation changed your perception of anyone in this group?
  • Is there a next step you would like to take based upon the conversation?

Closing (~5 min)

  • Give us feedback! Find our feedback form here.
  • Donate! Make more of these possible; give here.
  • Join or host more conversations! With a) this group by exchanging your emails; b) others in person and/or by video call online. Get more involved or learn how to host here.

Thank You!

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