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Chapel Hill Salon

Discussions for Community Building


When do you do Salons?

  • We alternate: One month we do Saturday night, 7-10:30; the next month we do Sunday afternoon, 3:30-6:30, because there are people for whom each of these times is bad – some people don’t drive at night or can’t get babysitters – some people are not available on Sundays. We have one guy who comes into town for the weekend and then goes back to his house in Eastern North Carolina for a week of work. But Sunday afternoon sessions are good; some of the people who are not too tired and who don’t have other commitments go out to dinner together afterwards.

How does a Salon session go?

You can run the Case Study of a Race Relations Salon Slide Show: SalonMike90405 – almost as good as being there!

  1. Leaders arrive and converse with each other and I talk with them while the “Godfather” (Registrar) checks people in.
  2. I open the meeting and discuss “Housekeeping” (when we will have breaks, and please help with cleanup before leaving) and any “old business” and introduce the leaders.
  3. Sometimes I have a burning issue to bring to the group before we get started. Sometimes I have a “Warm Up” activity.
  4. I introduce the leaders.
  5. We go around and introduce ourselves to each other briefly – one minute or less – 20 people x 2 minutes would take up 40 minutes just in introductions!
  6. Leaders lead the discussion for an hour or so. Sometimes they give people an activity to do.
  7. After 1 ½ hours, I announce the Break (20-30 minutes).When we take a break, I ask people when they come back to sit in a different seat.
  8. Leaders lead the discussion for 1 ½ hours.
  9. Clean up.

How do you decide on future topics?

  • I keep track of all the topic suggestions and who made each suggestion. We are constantly thinking of new topics as well. Periodically I send out a list of topics and ask people to pick their favorites. Note that I get very little feedback when I send out these lists. But periodically I pass out copies of the list at a Salon meeting, at the beginning, and that’s when we get more feedback.

How do you pick leaders?

  • I call people I know to have social skills and ask if they are willing to lead on a topic they voted for. For example, we asked John Edwards to lead the one on Electoral Politics, but he said, through an assistant, of course, that he had another commitment. I ask the Content Leaders to pick or suggest their own Co-Leaders.

Can I come?

  • If you send me your name, address, phone number and email, I will invite you to a future Salon. Please, do NOT just show up.

Have you ever turned anyone away?

  • So far, only one person. But we may do more in the future – I think 25 is too large. We may try running two groups in different rooms….

Do you get angry, disruptive behavior?

  • Yes, but extremely rarely. We’ve also had people not come to a specific topic because the topic is too upsetting and they know they will lose their temper. We present the Salon as best we can to be non-confrontational. More specifically, we explain that in our experience, no amount of ranting changes anyone’s mind. (See the Guidelines.)

Why are you doing this?

  • Because I need people – you know how that Barbra Streisand song goes, “People who need people….”
  • Because I want to expand my mind and help others to do the same.
  • Because in some fantasy, I hope to change the world.
  • We’re doing the website to make the method we have tested available to others. I would like to encourage people to have their own salon.

How did you get started?

  • I just read about it (We suggest you google “Salon – Discussion Group” and write to Utne Reader for a copy of the Salon Issue.), started talking and did it (after about 12 years of procrastination!). We also went to visit the people in Elgin, Illinois who had been having a salon for years. []

What’s great about the Salon?

  • It brings people together. It breaks through stifling polarization in our society and helps heal the isolation and pain people feel when they are unacknowledged.

What haven’t you done yet?

  • Art
  • Poetry
  • Music
  • Take our clothes off
  • Take a field trip
  • Had fisticuffs
  • The supernatural
  • Religion
  • Mental illness



To help people communicate across barriers of class, age, race, gender and political persuasion to build communication and community skills. 

Goals of the Salon

  • To bring diverse people together.
  • To communicate things that are of importance and concern to all of us.
  • To share a social event and meet new people.


  • To continually poll the group about what ideas will make a good three-hour topic.
  • To develop communication skills, leadership and group process skills (speaking, questioning, summarizing, listening, paying attention to cues, conflict resolution…).
  • To break down barriers between people, such as fear and anger.
  • To recruit diversity for the group.

Volunteer Leadership Team

  • Coordinators: Anna Washington and Whit Price 
  • Webmaster: Paul Nagy
  • Godfather: Richard Zieger
  • Leadership Team: Joy Hewett, Charlotte Hoffman, Mary Luckhardt, Rocco and Hatsy Nittoli, and Mort Zwick
  • Photographer: Mike Hsu

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