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A lively group discussion, an intimate tête-à-tête, an inner monologue — in your view, when it comes to a good conversation, what’s the ideal number of people?

My children’s book writing and critique group draws 6-9 people each time we meet, and it works out very well. There a loose structure, but since we concentrate on one person’s story at a time, it tends to keep the conversation relevant without running off the track into different and distant directions. It’s a relaxed atmosphere, but focused, and the participants want everyone to get their story reviewed so we pace ourselves pretty well. The number of people is just enough to get varied opinions and different viewpoints, without each writer being overwhelmed.

Most importantly, it’s a well-behaved group. There’s seldom that annoying tendency to talk over one another which is a conversation killer. The idea is to “criticize” (or praise) other people’s work, but group members tend to keep their comments constructive. Because we real each others’ stories out loud (never our own), listening is an element of the meeting.

Based on this I’d say the elements that make this a good group are: attentive listening, thinking before speaking, staying on topic, constructively criticizing, offering helpful comments with a desire to make each other better, and keeping within a schedule, are important factors that make any discussion worthwhile, more productive, and enlightening.

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