Dialogue in the workplace is imperative to the success of a business; but what actually is dialogue? how do we know the difference between having a conversation and interacting in dialogue? Which one is more beneficial? How can we achieve affective and authentic dialogue?
Dialogue is more than simply a conversation between two or more persons, it involves exchanging ideas or opinions with an aim to reach an amicable agreement or settlement. By definition, dialogue is never superficial, it is a mutual inquest in which the contributors pursue greater understating of each-other and the truth. The ability to engage in dialogue should not be underestimated as it is an imperative skill that all leaders must obtain in order to successfully build and maintain relationships.
Achieving ‘good’ dialogue.
Believe it or not, there is a lot more to dialogue than the simplicity of a conversation. Dialogue is about seeking the greater truth. When we engage in dialogue with one or more parties, we allow understanding and meaning to flow beyond words as we become connected to the parties involved. Shared meaning is essential. It is the bread to your sandwich, it holds people and organisations together.
There are many aspects that contribute to good dialogue, some of which include talking with your body, emotion, intellect, and spirit. Listening, however, is the most important ingredient for achieving successful and authentic dialogue.
Having the right mindset.
Dialogue is a shared enquiry; it is an exchange in which people discover something new. In order to uncover this discovery, you must be in the right mindset. Dialogue is not something you do to another person, instead, something you do with them. In order to achieve a flowing and productive conversation you may need to shift your mindset about what a relationship with the other person(s) means.
Pay attention to what you are focusing on when engaging in dialogue. Your attention should be directed towards understanding the other person. Try to avoid focusing on getting them to understand you.
Our goal during dialogue is to gather information, search for new ideas and discover something new. In order to seek a greater truth , we need to keep a connection with the person we are speaking with, we need to question statements made and share doubt in contrast to debating and arguing.
Know when to stop.
Conflict and dialogue often go hand in hand, so we need to prevent conflict arising. We need to know when to cease dialogue. Any business leader must acquire the ability to engage in dialogue, to act and to decide with the knowledge of when dialogue needs to be restricted.
If you aren’t sure whether or not you should cease dialogue, ask yourself, have all view-points, especially those opposing mine, have been answered?
Some individuals struggle to express themselves in a productive manner. Those falling into this category often speak using words that convey fear, anger and/or sadness. If you aren’t sure whether or not someone is carrying these emotions when involved in dialogue with you, look for the signs. Look at their choice of words and behaviour, are they showing signs of aggression, anxiety, decreased energy or detachment? Are they being argumentative? Interrupting without listening? Or defending themselves? If this is the case the person involved in the dialogue may be unable to build a positive bond and your best bet may be to cease the conversation and try again at a different time.
Think before you speak.
This is an easy one. Always think about what you are saying and what is being said. Do not simply just repeat a memory or fill silence. Think about what you are saying and what you are hearing and you will be able to see many new potentials and possibilities.
Avoid dialogue blocks.
What is a dialogue block exactly? Blocks are ways to stop discussions and create estrangement to the bond or relationship created when real communication occurs. The one golden rule we like to use about dialogue is the responder should always link directly to what preceded. When this does not happen, we encounter a dialogue block.
There are four primary blocks that commonly occur during dialogue: passivity, discounting, overdetailing and redefining.
Meet Passivity. Passivity is block number one. She often comes into play when a person uses language of withdrawal or nonresponsive behaviour. When passivity appears in your conversation it is generally because one or more parties are not engaging in problem solving and appear as reserved and non-responsive. Have you ever had someone use silence to avoid a response? Yes? Well that is passivity.
Our second block is discounting. Discounting comes into action when people say things to put you down or disrespect you or another person. A classic example of discounting is “yes, but…”. “Yes, but” does not mean yes. At all. In fact, it is a way to disagree and move away from the previously stated comment in order to state another opinion or view point. Really it is a nicer way of saying no. instead of saying “yes, but” try exchanging the phrase with words like “yes, and” or “and”.
Thirdly we have redefining. Redefining likes to change the focus of the conversation. He normally does this by avoiding something (which may be because it is uncomfortable, confrontational and/or emotional). Redefining is often used as a defence mechanism when one party does not want to answer a question or discuss a specific topic. The dialogue shifts focus away from the point being vocalised and discussed.
Lastly, we have overdetailing. This one is very common. You know when you’re talking to someone and you feel a little overwhelmed at what they have just said? Well that is classic overdetailing. When the important point gets lost in amongst other unimportant or irrelevant information.