How many times have we experienced a conversation ending too soon or a dialogue that danced around the big hairy issue?
You leave thinking...
“Did we understand the same thing?”
“Are we moving in the same direction?”
“When he said x, did he mean y?”; or,
“I can’t believe we didn’t talk about that one big thing!”
Not every conversation will change the trajectory of our world, or the world around us, but ANY conversation holds that possibility.
WHAT IF we treated every (each) conversation with the care, attention and importance that this possibility holds? Imagine the impact we would create!
Our conversations can only get us to where I am imagining we can get to - true connection - if we look at them as dialogue.
I started to think really deeply about "dialogue" when working with landowners, communities and stakeholders who were impacted by industrial project development, so essentially through the lens of public participation.
A common understanding of dialogue within this discipline implies two-way communication in which participants not only speak to one another but also really listen to and hear one another with the intention that they come away with a fuller understanding of the topic and each other, and that the conversation and the relationship progress in some way.
I want to share with you what I think is a more meaningful and profound definition of dialogue.
Physicist David Bohm (1996) defined dialogue as: … “a stream of meaning flowing among and through us and between us .... out of which may emerge some new form of understanding or shared meaning”.
I absolutely love this definition of dialogue.
The first part of this quote – “a stream of meaning flowing among and through us and between us…” - emphasizes the need to grasp meanings behind words. We all know that the same words and entities can have quite different meanings for different people and at different times and places. This is because we all have unique perspectives, unique life histories and thus interpret things including words, in different ways. We need to understand where others are coming from.
The second part of this quote – “out of which may emerge some new form of understanding or shared meaning…” - speaks to the benefit of dialogue. The act of truly hearing other voices can open up new spaces that no one individual could find on their own. If we want to solve the complex and pressing challenges our society is facing, we need many kinds of expertise — not only specialist knowledge but also ‘lay’ knowledge, including knowledge based on experience rather than formal training.
In short, diverse perspectives understood through dialogue can lead to new understandings, better decisions and help us connect with others.
So now you know where I am coming from when I talk about dialogue. What do I mean by fierce?
When I say fierce, I mean:
Powerful and Spirited: We come to the conversation with an energy, our life force, that is unique to us so that we have something unique and special to contribute.
Bold, Courageous and Kind: We are prepared to say what needs to be said, and we speak from a place of kindness and compassion.
A Sense of Curiosity: We are willing to be moved off of our position or to have our mind changed. We come to the discussion with an open mind and an open heart and a sense of humility.
These are the qualities that we come to the dialogue with in order to be fierce and the qualities that drive connection.
Of course, we can never have fierce dialogue in the absence of a safe and trusting environment. An environment that values and enables fierce dialogue is one where everyone feels free to speak openly and everyone is valued and respected.
We need to ensure this dialogue is occurring in our workplaces, in our homes, in our community. Wherever we live and lead.
I encourage you to engage in fierce dialogue; let's just see where this can take us!
Kathryn Pollack, a keenly attuned and accountable senior leader who believes in bringing your whole self to each moment and everything you are to all that you do. Learn more about Kathryn here.
Learn more about the PowHERhouse AMPLIFY program for senior leaders here.