How do I engage in respectful discussions?

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, and 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: Secondary 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 point of view rather than formulating your response.  

Try this: I think what you said was that....; Am I right when I think you mean that...? 

Push Pause then Speak: Make sure the person has finished sharing their point of view before responding. Avoid cutting them off or speaking over them.  

Try this: Wait for a few seconds before speaking. Ask the person speaking if there is another point they would like to share.  

Ask Questions of Curiosity: Think about what you would like to know more about to demonstrate that you want to understand the other person’s point of view.   

Try This: Can you tell me what you mean when you say...?  What helped you determine your point of view?1  

Learn, Not Convince: Discussions are an opportunity to learn about diverse points of view that differ from your own; it is not to convince someone that your point of view is right.   

Try This: Focus on your internal response when you hear a different idea. Reflect on your reason(s) for wanting to challenge it other than it doesn’t support your own point of view. Stay engaged in the conversation rather than “checking out” or wanting to challenge and defend when the point of view being expressed does not align with your own.2 

It’s Ok to Disagree Respectfully: You can respect another person’s choices or point of view even if you disagree. 

Try this: Think about what you do agree with and start with that statement. It helps the other person know you heard them. Start with “I agree with your point of view about... I think differently 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 point of view and not just saying what you think others want to hear. Don’t assume that everyone shares your point of view.3 

Try this: Avoid all universal statements such as always, never, nobody. Use “I” statements versus “everyone” statements. 

Respect Someone’s Right to Pass: Anyone can choose not to speak and should not be forced or pressured to share their point of view.  

Equal Speaking Time: Pay attention to how much time you listen and how much time you talk. Balance listening with expressing your ideas to make sure everyone has a chance to speak.  

Try this: Before speaking a second time, notice who has not had a chance to express their point of view. Check in with them to see if they want to speak.  

Ask for Consent: Seek permission to share any conversation.  Do not assume you have someone’s consent to share their perspectives with anyone else.  

Try this: I learned a different point of view. Can I share what I learned from you?


1Adapted from: Beginning Courageous Conversations about Race Glenn E. Singleton and Cyndie Hays. Extracted from: 

2Adapted from: University of British Columbia (2015). Courageous Conversations. Extracted from:

3Adapted from: University of British Columbia (2015). Courageous Conversations. Extracted from: