What would the work place be like, or the world be like if we could suspend judgments and enter a genuine time of thinking together? What I'm talking about is a free flow of ideas and meanings collectively, allowing discovery of insights that are often unattainable individually.
Dialog is different!
That said, let me point out how we have all learned to communicate, from the time we were small kids vying for our place at school recess.
Argument, discussion and problem solving interactions are the most common forms of dealing with different points of view.
- In arguments individuals jockey for air time, even preparing counter arguments while the other person is speaking. The goal is to dominate, dominate, dominate.
- In discussions the idea is to share your point of view with the intent of arriving at a good solution. However, this often reverts back to argument format to prove your point of view wins.
- In problem solving the goal is to use data, identify viable options, weigh the options, and choose the best solution. This however also can end up back at the knee-jerk argument model, where winning is still the main attraction.
Dialog is different!
There is no intention to initially solve the problem or establish a winning point of view. The goal is to explore all views on the subject accepting the fact that there will be a complexity of views with strong feelings attached. Using this model of communication allows you to gain a broader perspective of the situation and arrive at a new, more creative and complete conclusion.
This is also a way of demonstrating your true respect for others, a fundamental building block for strong working relationships.
We don't have many models of dialog today. We seem stuck with a plethora of four letter words to describe our feelings and when all else fails we simply leave, physically by slamming the door on the way out or emotionally by silence or snide remarks.
Here are 5 steps for effective dialog. It takes practice and determination.
- Make sure you take time to assess the emotional edge under the words. Check out body language and voice velocity. If emotions are running high acknowledge that this will be uncomfortable right at the start. No shoving feelings under the rug.
- Suspend judgment. Easier said than done. If you really want to prove you are right and others are wrong, forget dialog, it will be ineffective. However, if you can suspend judgment amazing consequences can happen.
- Build common ground of understanding. List the differences and the areas of agreement. Stay with this past the first few superficial statements. The gold of the truth lies deeper under the obvious.
- Take time. This is dead if it is agenda driven with the clock ticking out the minutes. Check about the goals that are clear and important. "What do we really want" is a vital dialog question.
- Agree to meet again. Important issues need time to germinate and blossom. Learn from neuro-psychology about how we do better when we "think slow" and that we all want to be heard and acknowledged.
The new normal will be using dialog to solve critical work issues. If you want to be ahead of the pack begin by practicing the skill yourself. At first, it might feel awkward (like learning to drive a car) however with time you will become more skilled and relationships will be enhanced.