Using dialogue to solve problems and make things happen
Leaders shape culture. Leaders model communication. Leaders empower followers. History validates the irrefutable role of leadership. I have decades of experience with leaders. We used dialogue to solve problems and make things happen. If dialogue is to have an impact on the cultures in which we live, it will be because leaders led this mission.
This book is about a way to live. It is not a “new and improved” way. It has been around for a long time. However, my assumption, based on many years of observation, is that only a small percentage of leaders and the population practice this way. What would it be like if leaders led 12% of us to practice dialogue described in this book?
We would NOT be in dialogue in interpersonal or group relationships if I focused on showing you how wrong you are or tried to persuade you to accept my point of view without being willing to listen to your point of view.
We are in a dialogue environment when we listen for what is meant and respond empathetically, when we ask questions to clarify and draw out the thinking of others, when we resist being defensive, when we agree to disagree when called for but seek to find that on which we do agree, when we don’t focus to persuade but to discover, when we change our views or positions in light of what we are discovering.
Transformational Dialogue is a means to constructive convergence and synergistic relationships.
Is dialogue always appropriate? No
Does it always work? No
Are there barriers? Yes
But the benefits outweigh the barriers.
Dialogue is a means to tap into tacit knowledge.
Hungarian scientist Michael Polanyi viewed knowledge understood or implied without stating it, to be an important form of knowing.
Polanyi wrote in The Tacit Dimension that we should start from the fact that “we can know more than we can tell.” He called this phase of knowing tacit knowledge. He affirmed that in tacit knowledge there was hidden truth worth exploring.
Polanyi identified dialogue as a way to discover the hidden truths of tacit knowledge. In a heuristic field, the nearness of discovery prompts the mind toward it. This approach to knowledge is the mainspring of originality and, by implication, innovation.
Dialogue stretches our levels of consciousness.
What we watch, listen to, think, and remember bind together to create consciousness. Our consciousness is like a symphony orchestra with multiple players combining their talents to create a performance.
Our consciousness plays a big role in our capacity for and practice of dialogue. These three-pound brains in our heads contain billions of neurons with trillions of synaptic connections. These electro-chemical connections flash across our brain networks and form patterns that lead to our consciousness.
Our levels of consciousness evolve. They stretch from early childhood, youth and adulthood to meet our needs at those stages in our lives. As we become adults, we become more aware of others around us. If and when we evolve to the higher levels of consciousness, a more inclusive and relational life flourishes. We are less self-centered. We are more open. The orchestra members create music between the notes. We are more receptive to practice dialogue.
Developmental psychologists suggest that only a small percentage of the population reach this higher level. They believe that there are steps we can take to raise our levels of consciousness. The practice of transformational dialogue enables those steps.
Selected Survey Comments
From our opinion survey on the practice of dialogue:
Dialogue has the potential to solve many national and international problems.
To be effective worldwide, dialogue skills must be taught throughout educational systems in all countries and to all age groups.
Dialogue leads to peace, and the absence of dialogue leads to war.
Avoiding dialogue may be seen as a way to avoid conflict.
Creating safe, secure environments without fear and without barriers will promote the practice of dialogue.
Social gatherings that might promote dialogue instead result in everyone busily responding to what’s on their phone devices.
We talk about each other more than we talk to each other. We talk and talk and talk, but we do not know how to engage in authentic conversation.
Those in authority stifle dialogue when they encourage polarization by expressing and insisting upon only one point of view.
Our society promotes a reliance on “experts” rather than opening up to different ideas and perspectives from everyone.
Social media encourages reacting rather than thinking, evaluating, and understanding.
Dialogue is a healthy activity that enhances and develops one’s intellect through listening to others’ opinions and being challenged to see reality in a different way.
The preceding thoughts from multiple sources and cultures affirm that the world needs dialogue.
Harry is an attorney and a friend of many years. We read heavy science and theology together. We dig into our readings with joy and enlightenment. His contribution tells our story.
“The question is whether true dialogue is worth the effort? The answer is yes, because true dialogue is transformational. Most conversations are shallow and do not reach the depth necessary to be qualified as dialogue. For those who have truly participated in and understand dialogue, good questions lead to deeper questions…
(Perhaps from his legal training and experience, Harry makes an important connection between dialogue and questions. Open-ended questions clearly open to greater consciousness and “aha” moments when a flow of questions lead to rich and enriching insights.)
Jacqueline and I have been friends for decades. We worked together. We have different political and religious views. When I asked her what dialogue had meant to her in our relationship, here is what she said.
“That one is easy, Irving: LOVE – a deep appreciation of the other and a recognition of a common bond to make things better in the world.
Dialogue: A Way to Live, Revised Edition page 33
I asked television personality, author of You Bet Your Life, and friend of many years, Spencer Christian, how he would describe the dialogue in our relationship. With his permission, here is his response. “I found our dialogue meaningful, not only because of
the words and ideas exchanged during the dialogue, but also because of the probing ‘internal dialogue’ that has naturally followed our conversations.
“My dialogue with you has always encouraged me to more carefully examine my relationship with God, to question whether I am living purposefully.”