I’ve been thinking about how we engage in dialogue. The Webster definition of dialogue is “an exchange of ideas and opinions.” So, in our work life, dialogue would be particularly important when we are solving a problem or creating new ideas.
I’ll get right down to it. For me, the three biggest challenges to real dialogue are:
- My desire to “be right.” The more knowledge and expertise I have, the more right I feel in my opinions. But trust me, I can also feel right about topics I have little to no knowledge. This is the biggie and why I’m putting it first. To be in real dialogue, I have to suspend my opinion.
- A tendency to debate rather than explore. The back-and-forth of defended opinions rarely produces big ideas. Instead, we could listen for and hear differences as opportunities to learn about the assumptions and information that drive a different view.
- An epidemic of lack of dedicated time. True dialogue requires time to explore and create shared understanding. With dialogue, each person has a complete set of assumptions and opinions of the group.
Today, I am going to suggest a personal decision we each can make, regardless of the actual process of our conversations with each other. I am going to anticipate and observe my opportunities for real, important dialogue and hold back from debate, listen for my own desire to defend my view, explore others’ assumptions and information and share my own. It seems an easier route to take than to try to orchestrate others. And, I’ll see whether my engagement modifies their behavior.