Junto literally means "together", and we use it to mean a conversation for mutual improvement, hosted between peers. Right at the heart of hosting these is a paradox: you need to be knowledgable about the topic to be discussed, but the conversation itself is not necessarily about imparting that knowledge.
We use our expertise to hold the space and shape the discussion, NOT to teach.
We cannot emphasise enough how critical this is. Hosting a junto is not about getting on your soapbox and preaching the good word to others. It is not about affirming your own opinion, or showing off how knowledgable and important you are. Your knowledge and expertise is only relevant to the extent you can use it dynamically, in the moment, to guide the group discussion closer to meaningfully shared truth.
The most effective way to do this is to listen with fine attention and ask the kinds of questions only someone in your position can. Asking questions always produces more interesting conversations than responding with your own opinion, no matter how important or correct you feel it is in that moment.
Juntos are an opportunity to learn more about your chosen topic. More importantly though, juntos are an opportunity to get insight into how other people understand and respond to the things which you are most passionate about. Do not forget this!Practical Tips¶
Pick an article/video/podcast or other piece of content which truly inspires you and makes you passionate as the springboard for discussion.
Share a link to this when you create the Junto in slack so that participants have enough time to absorb it and prepare.
Summarise the content you chose in your own words before the junto.
- These are not really notes to be used in the actual conversation, though they do often come in handy.
- The idea of this summary is to make sure you have a good grasp of all the detail so that you can riff on it in creative and interesting ways when discussing it.
Check who is attending and do a quick search in the #kernel-intros channel to remind yourself who these people are, as it will help guide the kinds of questions you can ask. Showing some understanding of and care about their interests makes the conversation flow more naturally.
Prepare to record your discussion so that it can be shared with the wider Kernel block and backed up in our knowledge archives.
At Kernel, we specifically try and start each conversation with gratitude, as that sets a tone and intention which is uniquely valuable to these kinds of conversations. Thank people genuinely for taking the time to participate and make them feel welcome and appreciated to the best of your ability.
After this, start by asking people to say why they are here and what touched their heart to the point that they chose to attend this particular conversation.
Emphasize that this is not a space for "right" and "wrong" answers: it is a peer-to-peer exploration of how we actually feel, premised on honesty and sincerity.
Once everyone has introduced themselves, ask people some follow-up questions before diving into the meat of the discussion.
- Importantly, these questions ought to be linking questions.
- You need to use the question as a way to bridge two or more people's interests because the aim is to get people talking to each other.
Use these early questions to establish a norm of people responding to one another, rather than going through you as the host, it will make the conversation much more rich and interesting. It also won't feel stilted, which is what happens if everyone ends up waiting for the host to respond to each comment.
If there are awkward silences, fall back on the notes you made to stimulate discussion along a different direction. If you're feeling really brave, let the silence sit be for a little while. Silence is truly the most productive space in any dialogue if you can hold it without too much discomfort.
Return to the Kernel lessons most closely associated with your chosen topic if you are really struggling to find ways to stimulate interesting discussion.
When people say something you disagree with or that you find frustrating, focus on your breath, centre your awareness in your heart, and actively find the most productive question you can ask. It often helps to throw it open to the wider group to respond, as the others will often realign the conversation with your intention if you give them the chance.
If someone is dominating the conversation, you can try a few things.
- Ask a new question on an unrelated or tangential topic.
- Name someone else when asking this question in order to get them to respond.
- If changing tracks and encouraging others to speak still doesn't work, be brave and honest, without being confrontational. Simply say, in your most innocent voice, "Thank you for all you have contributed. I think it's important we hear from some of the others on this point, so please mute yourself for a moment or two?"
You'll notice that we're also very specific about the words we choose: gratitude, heart, choice, honesty, sincerity, welcome, natural, flow, breath, listening and so on. It may sound trite, but literally using these words - especially in your introduction - will help you set the tone for a genuine and authentic conversation.
Awareness of the vibrational frequency of our words goes right into the art of hosting and is something you can only learn with practice. We welcome you into the circle of those trying to live this ancient wisdom.References¶