What is dialogue?

Why dialogue?

„Stay in the question, and you will grow into the answer.“

DIALOGUE, as we use the word, is a way of examining the background to the many crises with which people are confronted today. In business, it can be part the much needed, often missing part, of a culture of effective communication.

Dialogue enables us to explore and understand those processes that make real communication between individuals, and even nations, affect sharing the same organization. 

In our modern culture, we have the opportunity to meet each other in many different ways. Yet while we can without difficulty sing, dance, play or virtually together, to discuss issues that really matter seem to invariably lead to tensions, divisions and estrangement. We think, that this is necessary for speed, or is an inherent imperfection in the human thought process, which we have to live with. Yet that is not so. 

In dialogue it becomes possible for a group to define individual and collective requirements, ideas, and explore beliefs and feelings that subtly affect interactions.  Dialogue provides an opportunity to participate in a process that allows us to experience the effect of communication strengths (and its inverse, the effect of communication weaknesses).

Dialogue provides the insights that enable us to connect with the true needs of the world. It helps us transform our organizations into places of human development and maturity by creating true social and sustainable value. This is how we co-create our future as agile, healthy and robust learning organizations.

It is not a purely intellectual endeavor. The dialogue setting according to David Bohm is not about thinking as a “repetition of thoughts that have already been thought that have already been thought” but about thinking,  the new fresh thinking that accepts other contributors and experiences new insights.

Dialogue as an attitude

Dialogue is an attitude.  You can’t learn it overnight, you have to practice it for a lifetime and  slowly learn to integrate the principles into your everyday communication.

In a dialogue setting, speak and hear as per certain rules and principles. The focus here is on non-judgmental listening. The group agrees on a hierarchy-free communication and adheres to the 10 principles of dialogic communication. A speech symbol slows down the process and frees up time to think. The collected verbal contributions can be documented and further processed in a subsequent evaluation round.

In the workshop, though facilitated observation and listening, the mysterious and chaotic patterns that induce the group to avoid certain questions or hold tight and defend opinions become more transparent. Dialogue is a way of observing together how hidden values ​​and intentions in our behavior can limit outcomes and when unnoticed, how cultural differences collide without us noticing what is actually going on. It is like a stage where collective learning takes place and where feelings of increasing harmony, collegiality and creativity can arise. 

Where does it come from?

The quantum physicist David Bohm (1917 – 1992) dealt intensively with dialogue in his last creative period. While a discussion (Latin from discutere = to smash, to split up, to dismantle) is about taking apart the whole and breaking it down into individual parts, for Bohm «dialogue» (Greek from Dia = through, logos = word) means a „free The flow of meaning that flows under us, through us and between us ”. It’s about participation, thinking together, getting involved.

Bohm says that it is our thinking that divides the world and splits and fragments what was originally whole. We believe that our thinking describes things and experiences as they are. That we are dealing with objective external realities that exist independently of us and our perception and thinking.

This is a mistake with grave consequences. We create our reality with our thinking, we are constantly constructing it. And then say we haven’t done anything. We would only perceive and describe the „external objective reality“. And because the external objective reality is an objective reality, it also applies to everyone else. Then we are once again in the middle of an unproductive discussion that leaves everyone dissatisfied.

•Dialogue can be seen as an interdisciplinary approach: it is philosophically based and is strongly influenced by constructivsm, eg. Maturana, Varela, von Foerster, Watzlawick, Carl Rogers, Peter Senge & Freeman Dhorithy (prior to Claus Otto Scharmer at MIT, Martina & Johannes Hartkemeyer.


Perspective on the subject

Perspketive listened to the TN

Slowdown in communication

Understand one another better

Let go of the emotions in communication

Setting of Dialogue

The Dialogue happens in a circle of  people.

The circle symbolizes equality

It’s important to see each other, but we don’t look into each others eyes, but at the center or middle of the circle to keep ourself concentrated

Dialogues cannot work if there is any hierachy existing in the group

There are some symbolic means to support the creation of the dialogue, e.g. 
a talking symbol, a carpet, a candle light or a flower in the middle. 
They help to develop a supportive atmosphere, 

More important are the soft skills and the dialogue competences / principles such as: 

Dialogue principles

1. Adopt a learning attitude.

We are learning and therefore we should never lose our curiosity and motivation to gain new insights and make new experiences.

2. Show radical respect 
Respect is more active than tolerance and refers  to the motivation to watch the world from the perspective of other persons.

3. Openness
I am willing to bring openness for new ideas and other perspectives, and open to questioning my personal beliefs as well as society´s belief systems.

4. Speak from the heart
I speak truly about what is really important to me and not to theorize or to make a „good“ impression.

5. Listen deeply 
I listen to the other person with empathic openness. To listen deeply is an active process.

6. Slow down 
To become aware of what is happening in my inner world, to see what are my reactions and what may be the reasons for my – maybe very emotional – reactions.

7. Suspend assumptions and

it should be possible to observe your own beliefs and prejudices. We observe them from an other (outer) perspective to gain a helpful personal distance.

8. Embrace the paradox of differences
I becomes aware that we do not live in a world of „black and white“ . From this perspective very seldom there is a clear truth or non-truth – it depends on the perspectives of the viewer.

09. Speak from the heard. 

Say what really matters to you

10. Observe the observer 
I am observing my own feelings and thoughts