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Towards WE & BEYOND – Impressions from a shared journey Part XIV

If in order to find the meaningful, life-supporting questions, we need to move from security, standardisation, formalisation and maintenance to curiosity, creativity, diversity and generation ... how can this be done? Which (new) skills and attitudes need to be (re-)considered?

We found the simple, possibly somewhat surprising answer in DIALOGUE.

What is special about dialogue? What makes it different from discussion or debate or conversation?

Let's look at definitions.

A debate is a formal contest in which the affirmative and negative sides of a proposition are advocated by opposing speakers. It's goal is to come to a decision.

A discussion is an act or instanceof consideration or examination by argument, commen, etc., especially to explore solutions; informal debate. It also tends to be about particular positions being taken.

A dialogue is a conversation between two or more persons. A dialogue is about inviting different viewpoints and opinions, it is about exploring alternatives and options. It's all about an exchange of ideas or opinions on a particular issue, especially a political, religious or scientific issue, with a view to reaching an amicable agreement or settlement, with the view to reaching shared understanding. Dialogue is about creating a win-win situation rather than creating winners and losers.

Dorothea was quite surprised when she discovered David Bohm's book "On dialogue". David Bohm is a scientist with specialist expertise on quantum mechanics. Why would a physicist find 'dialogue' important enough to write a book about it? It's because if a group of people - even if all of them are scientists, yet with different areas of expertise - explore uncharted territory together, stretch the boundaries of existing knowledge, they somehow need to communicate. How do diverse groups communicate in a constructive way, and where everyone truly understands each other? This is not a trivial question as all of us have developed our own set of lenses through which we see the world. These lenses are a reflection of our experiences which in turn shape our implicit assumptions and deep beliefs. Each and everyone has such lenses and, even though we might not be aware of it, act as filters to all we see and hear, and they will influence on how we use and understand language. This is why ' communication across communities' is often difficult. Who has not been in a conversation where we feel misunderstood, not listens too, in conflict with someone only to discover later that it was a misunderstanding?

By the way did you know that 'communication' comes from the Latin word commūnicāre, meaning "to share", the activity of conveying information through the exchange of ideas, feelings, intentions, attitudes, expectations, perceptions or commands, as by speech, gestures, writings, behaviour and possibly by other means such as electromagnetic, chemical or physical phenomena?

So where are we? We need to be able to ask meaningful and relevant questions. in order to do that we need to challenge / have our assumptions challenged. In order for that to happen we need people who are different from us, who can bring different experiences and perspectives. Bringing different 'communities' together is a challenge as we see and hear things differently. That's where dialogue and communication come in, and where we come back to David Bohm. Evan Root drawing on the work of David Bohm, has identified a skill set that supports and enables effective communication and we have created the figure below to visualise it:


The conscious use of this "DIALOGUE SKILL-SET" involves:

  • Listening carefully & without assumptions about 'the' reality,

  • Suspending previous experiences and understandings,

  • Observing patiently & conscious our own viewing filters,

  • Releasing inappropriate, unsuitable or outdated mental models and perspectives,

  • Holding our idea / concept / interpretation until the time has come to,

  • Voicing our point of view once we have done all of the above.

More and more people become aware of one of the most fundamental insight of quantum mechanics, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle and relativity theory: the way you pose the question for a good part predicts the answer you receive.

Building on this our fourteenth insight is, dialogue skills are crucial to co-create meaningful questions at the edge of uncertainty.

By the way ... Organisations like the Collective Leadership Institute embrace this insight and offer stakeholder dialogue and leadership development.

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