Welcome to the 18th post in our Journey in Dialog. In previous posts, I noted what helps and what does not help to experience transformational dialog. In this post, I offer a few tips for those who facilitate transformational dialog in groups.
My experience is a group of nine is optimal for transformational dialog, but I have had good experience with a few more and a few less than that number.
Define the purpose and share the tips for your gatherings.
Although reaching agreement is not the goal of dialog and suspending judgment about others’ views and opinions is important, disagreements should be openly shared. When disagreements are shared, it is important to validate them as a different way of looking at a subject rather than trying to strong-arm an agreement. Disagreements can energize a group to clarify and seek meaning that goes beyond the initial conflicting views.
Invite those who hold back to speak out. Respect, however, that some people are naturally less inclined to speak out. Discipline is needed to assure equal opportunity for all members to contribute.
Instead of listening for what is correct or to find agreement, listen to find what is meant. What does the person who is speaking mean?
When someone’s contribution to the dialog is not clear, it often helps to restate that person’s contribution in different words and then ask the person if that’s accurate. Such attempts to clarify can surface new layers of thought that go beyond the initial contribution.
Assume that each member of the group has a piece of the answer to issues surfaced and that together the group can craft a new and better response. Celebrate new insights, greater clarity, and deeper understandings as they occur.
Barriers to effective group interaction include ingrained habits of non-listening, pride that gets in the way, and resistance to change. Barriers also include disrespect for one another that may suppress openness, lack of trust that causes resistance to reveal “secrets,” and competitiveness that expresses itself in jockeying for influence.
Dialog does not proceed stepwise like climbing a ladder. It is non-linear. It is communication that stimulates the growth of people and groups when participants are free for open exchange and clarity. The deeper experience we have in dialog, the greater potential we have for personal and group transformation.
© 2018 The Living Dialog™ Ministries
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