If you struggle to understand what is a Dialogue, then this insightful and clear definition is written with you in mind.
Dialogue is an important aspect of communication. Having it as a tool in your skill bag will enhance your personal and professional effectiveness.
In the late 90s, while working in New Zealand, I was introduced to the concept of Dialogue through the work of David Bohm. His book, ‘On Dialogue‘, remains the pre-eminent standard.
We will review some of David’s insights and their relevance in today’s world.
What IS A Dialogue?
A dialogue is based on a win-win approach to conversation and communication. The foundation of dialogue lies in openness, observation, listening and the desire to understand the views of others without judgement. This is not easily achieved and demands that we become more self-aware of the impact we have on others and situations. Rather than hearing to speak and get your point across, you must prepare yourself to receive and remain curious about the perspectives of others.
Dialogue is also a term used in philosophy. Its roots lie in the ideas and practices of Socrates and Plato. The ‘Socratic Method‘ refers to when Socrates would ask his students probing questions to reveal their assumptions and misconceptions.
His goal was to bring out a clear expression of something to facilitate its understanding “by all rational beings.”
At its core, the word dialogue comes from the Greek roots –dia, meaning through or across and –logue which means discourse.
What Is The Difference Between Conversation And Dialogue?
I have found that the best way to help you to understand what a dialogue is, is to explain what it is not. Most people often confuse dialogue with things like conversation and discussion.
It is not these things.
Let’s start with the difference between conversation and dialogue.
To con-verse means to talk informally and exchange views, ideas, news and opinions. You put something out there and I do the same in response.
It may have nothing to do with the vein or root of the topic but rather it is just you and me sharing what we feel. No time is required to understand the context or application of what is being shared.
When I break the word con-verse down, I start with the root –con which means to deceive. As a prefix, it means with. So I could be just throwing thoughts and ideas out to you with no appreciation for their truth or meaning.
Or, I could simply be adding to your verse.
Dia-logue on the other hand implies that there is duality in the exchange and interest in how those verses connect or provide relevance and a deeper understanding.
Is Dialogue Just Talking?
No, Dialogue is not just talking. It involves a lot more than aimlessly putting words out there.
To dialogue effectively, you must be focused and intentional with your words. You must invest time and energy to listen attentively and observe the details that may ordinarily be overlooked.
For dialogue to exist and grow, a safe space must be created. That safe space must be civil, with mutual respect and due regard for the expressions of others. There is no judgement.
Rather, there is respect for the fact that others hold different views than their own. In embracing that difference, we may be able to expand our appreciation and deepen our understanding.
A desire to understand is at the root of dialogue.
Entering into dialogue requires strong self-confidence and self-esteem. It is these behaviours that will allow you to be open and receptive to the views and opinions of others without feeling threatened or conflicted.
Recommended Reading >>>> Self-Confidence And Self-Esteem: 6 Things You Should Know
What Kind Of Communication Is Dialogue?
Dialogue is a communication process that facilitates people with different perspectives, thoughts, ideas and feelings seeking to understand differences in those things.
There is a purpose and intent, however. That is to achieve a degree of mutual understanding.
The elements of communication are critical here.
For communication to take place, there must be a Sender and Receiver. If the message is not received with the intent of the Sender, the communication process is not complete.
This requires you to be an assertive and effective communicator with an eye for detail. I have found that we pay attention to the little details – the simple things that are often overlooked – we are able to have a deeper connection with and appreciation for others.
This results in communication that is more meaningful, empathetic and mutually beneficial.
It results in a dia-logue.
Additional Reading >>>> Role Analysis and Assertiveness – Sharpen your Effectiveness
What Makes Dialogue Effective?
I am often told that dialogue is difficult. It does require effort and intent for it to be effective. I know that. But, like anything worthwhile and of benefit, to become good at it, you must be willing to practice.
Repetition is the Mother of skill.
For dialogue to be effective and beneficial, all the players must vew each other with equity and inclusion. Everyone belongs in a dialogue. No one is more important or knowledgeable than the other. Diversity is expected, embraced and honoured.
For those of us who work within the spectrum of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging, (DEIB), dialogue provides a formal structure for us to perform and share with others.
We cannot be judgmental and disrespectful when engaging in a dialogue. Similarly, we cannot embrace DEIB without removing conflicted thoughts and ideas and holding on to assumptions.
Effective dialogue is a precursor for effective DEIB.
My Closing Thoughts . . .
While working on some challenging change projects in New Zealand in the late 90s, I discovered the process of dia-logue. Before that, I did not know what a dialogue was.
But, I was curious – I still am actually. It is that curiosity that took me on a path of exploration and discovery.
While learning about dialogue, I started to put it into practice as a Facilitator with one of the world’s largest personal development organisations. It totally changed how I delivered results and set me apart from other Facilitators.
My ability to listen and observe was heightened and the demand for that insight grew. It continues to be an engaging and beneficial journey and I am grateful for taking the time to learn.
This is definitely an art that needs to be in everyone’s behaviour tool kit.
Start A Dialogue Today!
There is no better time to start than right now.
Set yourself apart from the crowded rooms and return to the simple, effective and powerful ways of working. Become self-aware and more confident.
Practice by starting a dialogue, today.
A little About The Author
Hi! I am Cassandra, the Chief Cook and Bottle-Washer at LaMP International Limited.
Thank you so very much for taking the time to read this article. I trust that you have enjoyed reading it and that it helped you to better understand what ‘a dia-logue’ is.
I was introduced to the concept of dialogue while living in New Zealand in the 90s. It continues to serve me well in my roles as a mother, sibling, partner, facilitator, coach, strategist, change agent and entrepreneur.
I no longer see it as a skill, science or art. To me, it is a way of life – a passion, so to speak.
For almost 40 years, I have been working around the world with thousands of people, helping to rethink behaviours, structures and organisations.
My work has impacted industries such as Energy, Oil & Gas, Manufacturing, Media and Management Consulting in roles that took me from a staff position all the way to the E and C suites.
I love working with people and organisations and helping them become more effective, successful and sustainable.
Reach out to me if I can assist you in any way and help you to Change Your Script!