What do respectful discussions look like, feel like, and sound like?

These practical talking tips for engaging in respectful discussions have been created to support teachers in initiating and leading respectful classroom discussions with and amongst students on various healthy living concepts, including vaccinations and healthy decision-making. These tips promote the principles of engaging in active listening, seeking to understand and value diverse viewpoints, identifying gaps in one’s knowledge base, respecting and communicating one’s personal perspective and decisions with confidence both within and outside of the school community setting.  

This resource may be posted in the school/classroom setting for teachers and students to reference when engaging in small and large discussions, or to establish classroom agreements for interacting respectfully with others.  Teachers may find it helpful to review each tip and key terms in the tips that may not be familiar to students (e.g., the difference between an opinion, perspective, point of view). This provides students the opportunity to answer questions and practice some of the “Try this” suggestions. Consider having students identify additional tips, practical strategies or agreements that they would include when setting the stage for engaging in respectful discussions. The tips are not ordered hierarchically but are all equally important and valuable when initiating and leading respectful classroom discussions. 

Consider accessing Ophea’s Vaccination Talks: Elementary Discussion Guide for tips to consider before engaging students in evidence-informed discussions and framing respectful discussions. 

Practical Talking Tips


Practice Active Listening: Listen to understand the other person’s thoughts and feelings instead of thinking about what you want to say. 

Try this: What do you mean when you say...? Tell me why... 

Push Pause then Speak: Make sure the person has finished sharing their thoughts before speaking. Avoid jumping into the middle to respond.  

Try this: Wait for a few seconds before speaking. Ask the person speaking if they have said all they want to say. 

Ask Questions of Curiosity: Think about what you would like to know more about to understand the person's thoughts and feelings. 

Try this: Tell me more about ...?1 

 Learn, Not Convince: Discussions help you learn about thoughts and ideas that are different from your own; it is not to convince someone that you are right.  

Try This: Focus on how you feel when you hear a different idea. Think about why you want to try to change the person’s mind other than that you don’t agree with it. Keep listening instead of being distracted when you don’t agree with the thoughts and feelings of others.2

It’s Ok to Disagree Respectfully: You can respect another person’s thoughts and ideas even if you don’t think or feel the same way.  

Try this: Identify something that you think or feel the same way about and say that first. It helps the other person know you heard them. Start with “I feel the same about...I don’t feel the same about...”

Treat Everyone with Respect: Do not call out or interrupt, no “put downs”, jokes, name calling, sarcasm, stereotyping or derogatory terms.  

Speak Your Truth/Speak for Yourself: This means being open and honest about your thoughts and feelings and not just saying what you think others want to hear. Not everyone feels or thinks as you do.3  

Try this: Avoid using words such as always, never, nobody. Use “I” when you share your thoughts and feelings instead of “everyone” or “we”.

Respect Someone’s Right to Pass: Anyone can choose not to speak and should not be pressured to share their thoughts and feelings.  

Turn Taking: Make sure everyone has a turn to speak before you speak again. 

Try this: Before you speak again, notice who has not had a chance to speak. Ask them if they want to speak. 

Ask for Consent: Ask someone if you can share what they shared in conversation.  Do not think it’s ok to share someone else’s thoughts and feelings with others without asking them first.  

Try this: I liked what you said. Can I share what you told me with my family? 


Adapted from: Beginning Courageous Conversations about Race Glenn E. Singleton and Cyndie Hays. Extracted from: https://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/BTB_23_PRECON_Make_It_Plain_2.pdf 

2Adapted from: University of British Columbia (2015). Courageous Conversations. Extracted from: https://arts-campout-2015.sites.olt.ubc.ca/files/2016/10/Courageous-Conversations-Angela-Brown.pdf 

3Adapted from: University of British Columbia (2015). Courageous Conversations. Extracted from: https://arts-campout-2015.sites.olt.ubc.ca/files/2016/10/Courageous-Conversations-Angela-Brown.pdf