by Kate Berardo and Simma Lieberman
“Consider any complex, potentially volatile issue – Arab relations, the problems between Serbs, Croats, and Bosnians, corporate decision making, getting control of the U.S. deficit or health care costs, labor/management relations and so on. At the root of the issue we are likely to find communication failures and cultural misunderstandings that prevent the parties from framing the problem in a common way, and thus make it impossible to deal with the problem constructively.”
– Edgar H. Schein, Professor MIT Sloan School of Management
To change a situation or environment or constructively deal with any issue, there first needs to be dialogue. What is dialogue and when should it be used? Trainers Simma Lieberman and Kate Berardo discuss the basics of dialogue and it’s power as a communication tool to allow parties to frame a problem in a common way.
What is Dialogue?
Dialogue is a communication tool that allows people to understand other viewpoints without pitting themselves against different perspectives. In dialogue, there is no defending of opinions, and no counterpoints. Instead, you let someone talk and present their viewpoint. You let them finish their idea without interrupting or asking questions. You listen to understand, not to defend your own point of view. Your goal is to get in their head, and understand their perspective, not to prove they’re wrong and you’re right. When it’s your turn, you talk and are allowed to finish your thoughts. And here’s the key: when you give your viewpoint, you don’t give your viewpoint relative to theirs. Dialogue is not a back and forth discussion, not a debate or rebuttal. It’s a chance to frame a problem collectively by both independently voicing your perspectives on an issue.
When should dialogue be used?
Dialogue should be used when, as Edward Schein points out, two parties have framed an issue differently. When individuals or groups have different perspectives and see issues differently, dialogue can be employed as a effective communication tool to help the parties understand each other’s point of view. Only from this common understanding can change and resolution grow.