Understanding Dialogue: A Q&A on the benefits of dialogue
by Simma Lieberman and Kate Berardo
What does dialogue do?
Dialogue brings people together who would not naturally sit down together and talk about important issues. It is a process to successfully relate to people who are different from you. Their differences can include gender, religion, work departments, cultures, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, or age.
Does dialogue solve problems?
Dialoging isn’t a problem-solving process directly. It is instead a process that builds bridges of understanding between groups that naturally helps to reduce misunderstandings, conflict, and tension and therefore to dissolve problems.
What are the signals that a dialogue process is needed?
Whenever differences are the root cause of problems in an organization or on a college campus, dialogue may be a helpful process. These problems can be interpersonal, such as misunderstandings, tension, or increased polarization and division or organizational, such as low levels of productivity, high levels of stress, and high rates of turnover.
How can you spot opportunities for dialoging before problems arise?
Whenever you have the opportunity for people of different backgrounds to interact, dialogue can be a useful tool to help build a foundation of understanding and set guidelines for effective ongoing interaction. Work Groups with different functions and priorities who must work together but know little about the day-to-day activities of the other departments would benefit from the dialoguing process, as would college campuses that have some diversity, but generally little interaction between individuals of different backgrounds.
What can you expect from a dialoging process?
Dialogue promotes better understanding and more creative cooperation between different people and groups. The process will help to reduce misunderstandings and tensions and help ensure more successful interaction in the future.
What are the basic requirements for a dialogue?
Both parties must be willing to engage in the dialogue, trust the process, and agree on a set of guidelines for the process. Because the stakes are high and emotions are often involved, only a skilled and experienced facilitator should be used for the dialogue process.
New Year’s Resolutions: A New Approach?
I’m tired of carrying over last-year’s unrealistic New Year’s Resolutions to next year, aren’t you? And I’m really tired of putting myself down because I haven’t done have the things I promised myself last year. This year, join me in taking a different approach to New Year’s Resolutions.
Instead of looking forward and thinking about what you want to accomplish, first look back and think about what great things you did. List them all. Then, ask yourself, how did I accomplish these things?
Let’s say you became more productive at work this past year. How did you do it? Well, first you started talking to people about productivity, announced that you wanted to get more done in your day, you gathered information about strategies, and then decided which one would be most applicable to your situation. In other words, you took initiative, were motivated, and made it happen. How? Perhaps you realize that part of your success lies in vocalizing your goal and asking other for help. Maybe you realize that breaking down the goal into steps allowed it to become realistic to you.
Whatever your steps were to the accomplishment, relish in that success for just one more moment. It feels a lot better than focusing on all the things you didn’t get done, doesn’t it? And isn’t that what the holidays are supposed to be about – relaxing and enjoying yourself.
Instead of wasting time on New Year’s Resolutions, set goals throughout the year that will give you a sense of accomplishment when the next year draws to a close. Focus on past accomplishments to help guide you to future success.