What Does a Dialogue Actually Do?
What is Dialogue?
Dialogue (with a capital "D") is more than just a casual conversation or a watercooler chat. It is a specific method used to shift people's natural resistance to a set of values that they find very different from their own.
Its primary purpose is to build empathy between individuals and groups independently of the problems between them. It is particularly helpful where there are deep differences in culture or ethics.
The Power of Story
Sharing stories can be very useful, while debating issues can make things worse.
In dialoguing each person relates parts of their personal history that show where or how they formed their values. They might include details the influences on their lives and the difficulties they face.
Dialoguing has been used very successfully to build empathy between host communities and asylum seekers, indigenous people and their past oppressors, and in the case of Daryl Davis, an African American man and he Ku Klux Klan. Dialogue relies on people telling their personal stories rather than debating political issues.
The goal is for you (and the other person) to explore the meanings and experiences behind the values that are clashing. Your positions start to become less polarized, and a more empathic climate begins to develop.
You Create a Big Shift
As people tell their personal stories, the complexities and ambiguities start to surface. People might talk about why the issue is important to them, how they got to this place, their pain, and their unanswered questions.
Dialogue shifts the focus from the conflicting values to the richness of the people themselves.
Once people start to hear each others' stories, they begin to view the conflict in a completely different way. They see that what the other person is saying is true for them, it is their reality.
Diversity can be a rich resource that you can explore by encouraging someone to tell you how they formed a value or idea that is alien to you.
In Hearing The Story, the Problem Might
Dissolve Rather than Resolve.
Encourage a conversation where people share their stories. It's not usually very difficult to get people to talk in this way, and it's often helpful to have a third person steering the process.
Useful Dialoguing Questions
Dialoguing is a method used to shift people's resistance to a set of values very different from their own. Its primary purpose is to build empathy between individuals and groups independently of the problems between them.
It is particularly helpful where there are deep differences in culture or ethics.
How did you come to think/feel this way?
What important experience in your life led you to believe in this?
Can you tell us about something that has really affected you personally that relates to (topic at hand)?
When you do... how does it satisfy you?
When you do...how does that make you feel?
What doubts have you had?
If this dialogue is successful, what differences will you notice?
Reflective Dialogue integrates the Active Listening skillset, in order to transform a conflict into a productive conversation.
This process has been used with:
Ethnic and Cultural Groups
Factions With Opposite Values
It may seem like nothing has actually happened - because often, there is no resolution. But you'll notice something profoundly important has changed.
Through Reflective Dialogue you'll see the person - and the problem - more clearly, and the conflict itself starts to matter a little (or a lot) less. You'll realize that what's most important is the people, not the problem. The problem is just an opportunity to learn more about each other, explore new ideas, and work together collaboratively on new ideas.
Can't Get Enough?
Neither can we! That's why we've designed so many more resources that will show you how to implement Dialogue, Active Listening, and other critical conflict skills inside The Conflict Clinic, our eight-week online program. You can click here to learn more about The Conflict Clinic and Get on the Waitlist!
Warning: This Program Might Just Change Your Life.