What is Dialogue?
Dialogue can be viewed as a component of the deliberative process or as a process of its own. It connects inquiry with reflection and responsiveness. In these connections, it can equip us with the conditions we need to overcome the many obstacles to deliberation, and deliberation can likewise help us overcome the many obstacles to dialogue. It is a collaborative process during which we work to create a shared understanding. Other characteristics of dialogue include:
- A mutual commitment to understand and be understood
- Assuming fallibility (we can be wrong sometimes!)
- Listening to learn and create
- Inquiry into others' views and assumptions
- The integration of facts, feelings, values, interests, and beliefs
- Reciprocity and response
Creating Courageous Spaces
What is a courageous space? A space in which all participants acknowledge, listen, and invite others to share their authentic selves. To make a space courageous, we must be willing to honestly share our stories with others, but also be willing to listen to the stories of others who may not have the same perspectives. We can disagree and still participate in the conversation with the intent to listen and learn, opening ourselves to change in the process.
A courageous space allows for participants to be speak with the languages of their heart or to be quiet if they don’t wish to discuss the topic at hand in that moment. Silence itself is a powerful communicative tool and is respected as a part of the space. Each person can participate in the ways that make most sense for them, intentionally invite others to do the same, and use all the time needed to build trust with each other through intentional communication and appropriate response.
Centering dialogue in our community engagement, we extend welcome to each member of our conversation, honoring them for who they are and working together to build mutual understanding and respect.
All Talk and No Action?
A lot of critics will say: “What is the point of dialogue? Why don’t we do something!”. Dialogue is more than just a means to an end. One of the most important reasons to engage in dialogue is simply to meet our basic relational needs of understanding and recognition. Dialogue can also serve as a tool to help us encourage greater awareness and understanding about contentious issues. If we can engage in thoughtful dialogue with people who have different perspectives, worldviews, and values, we can begin to build the understanding necessary to then engage in more deliberative styles of conversation.