Dialogic Listening

Crafting Mutual Meanings

What is it?

Dialogic listening is a central component of dialogue, in fact, it is a prerequisite for dialogue. This type of listening emphasizes conversation as a shared activity, rather than encouraging participants to focus on and communicate their own views about an issue. Dialogic listening breaks down the distinction between “your” view and “my” view and instead creates “our” view.

Dialogic listening requires an open-ended, creative attitude towards conversation. While many conversations may strive to reach certainty or closure, dialogic listening helps us tap into a style of thinking that embraces unknowns and openness. The point here is to create space for diverse opinions, avoid ending conversations prematurely, and to have genuine curiosity in what the other person is saying.


Crafting Mutual Meanings

Wait? Isn’t this just active listening? While it may seem similar, it is a distinct form of listening! Dialogic listening serves to orient participants to a joint activity where you all work together to construct an understanding of the conversation or issue. In this form of listening, the focus is on what is happening between the participants rather than each person trying to determine what the other is thinking. Dialogic listening is also focused on the present: “what is happening in this group right now?” rather than future goals or things that unfolded in the past. While it recognizes that past and future are a part of the present, it intentionally chooses to be mindful of co-creative process in the here and now.

Tips for Listening Dialogically

Most of us at least have some background in active listening, but because dialogic listening is quite different, here are some suggestions on how to hone these skills:

  • Encourage other participants to say more and explain their views fully
  • Make use of paraphrasing
  • Ask strategic questions
  • Practice authenticity (be your best self and invite others to do the same!)
  • Actively open yourself to a continuous practice of learning