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Introduction to Dialogue

“DIALOGUE” comes from the Greek dia and logos, which translates as “through meaning”. People engaged in Dialogue listen for the meaning that flows through a group of people when they talk to one another. The intention is not to judge what is “right or wrong”, not to “win or lose”. It is to understand the other’s point of view and in this way, create a shared understanding, rather than agreement, among people with very different perspectives.

The saying “Dialogue first and then decide” acknowledges that in order to listen to the truth of each person’s experience and build understanding, we must be able to set aside our own perspectives and judgments, at least temporarily. Once we have listened fully to each other and built some understanding of our different realities, we can move to making choices, if needed. By building understanding first, we ensure that any decisions we may make will take into consideration the needs of everyone involved.

Dialogue is a conversation characterized by the following intentions:

  • To create a fuller, more integrated picture of reality, rather than one that is fragmented into various and often competing parts
  • To provide an opportunity for all perspectives to be heard and considered
  • To create shared understanding, rather than solutions
  • To create the possibility of collaboration as a way of tapping collective or group intelligence and eventually creating ways to move forward that honor the needs of all involved
  • To create a culture of shared responsibility and leadership

Behaviors that characterize Dialogue are:

  • A high level of listening to understand ( rather than to formulate a response )
  • Balancing questioning and stating your point of view in a way that invites others into the conversation
  • Identifying and testing assumptions
  • Speaking from the “I” rather than the “We” – each person owns their own experience
  • Requesting to hear the voices of all those present
  • Speaking to the whole group rather than to a single individual, avoiding back-and-forth and side conversations
  • Asking about the relationship between different points of view

Benefits for participants include:

  • Greater understanding of the issues and each other
  • The possibility of generating new ideas and ways to move forward
  • Communication skills that will serve people well in other situations where there are many and different points of view
  • Stronger relationships founded in respect and trust
  • Enhanced capability for collaboration