Establishing Norms

Establish your group norms. In order to ensure group members feel safe, establish common agreements such as respect and confidentiality.

Here’s an example adapted from Singleton & Linton’s Courageous Conversations model:

Stay engaged.

To stay engaged is a refusal to let your heart and mind “check out” of the conversation while leaving your body in place. It is a personal commitment each person makes, regardless of the engagement of others. It means remaining morally, emotionally, intellectually, and socially involved in the dialogue.

Speak your truth (knowing it’s only part of the truth).

To speak your truth, you must be willing to take risks and be honest about your thoughts, feelings and opinions, and not just saying what you perceive others want to hear. Unless we can bring our authentic selves to the table the dialogue will remain limited. Honor and respect each others’ truth as their own lived experience.  

Experience discomfort.

Talking about race, racism, and inequity is often uncomfortable.  Identifying and unpacking our own identity groups and the different levels of privilege associated with them is even more uncomfortable.  To engage in conversations about race and inequity in honest, meaningful ways, we ask participants to agree to experience some discomfort. 

Expect and accept non-closure.

There is no “quick fix,” to-do list, or solution to the complex problems posed by racism and inequity.  We are not going to solve racism within our organization, or even within our group today. Therefore, we must commit to an ongoing dialogue and a journey of growth together.


To support each other in our risk-taking we agree to respect the privacy of each individual’s identity and life experiences.  We can share our own learning, but not the names and stories of others.

(Adapted from:  Singleton, G. E., & Linton, C. (2006). Courageous conversations about race: A field guide for achieving equity in schools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.)

Other examples of group norms might include things like:
  • Share the airtime.  Step up, step back.
  • If you wonder, ask.  Ask the hard questions.
  • Disagree with the idea, not the person.
  • Phones and screens on silent, or put away.