22: MICHELLE MALIESE
Welcome to the 22nd post in our Journey in Dialog. In this post, I have included passages from an article written by Professor of Philosophy, Michelle Maliese,
when she was a graduate student and a member of the research staff at the Conflict Research Consortium at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Maliese wrote about the challenges of dealing with public conflicts in which those involved
• tend to cling to their own positions and denigrate views of the opposing side,
• rarely ask each other questions or genuinely listen to what the other side is saying,
• tend to stereotype each other and misunderstand each other’s positions, causing
each participant to become increasingly polarized,
• block effective communication because of competition, prejudice, and fear.
Dialogue has no fixed goal or predetermined agenda. “The broad aim is to promote respectful inquiry, and to stimulate a new sort of conversation that allows important issues to surface freely. … As they listen to one another and relate in new ways, participants learn new perspectives, reflect on their own views, and develop mutual understanding.”
Dialog surfaces assumptions so deeply embedded in our worldviews that we might not recognize them. These assumptions include those rooted in culture, race, religion, and economic background.
Participants in dialog must be ready to abandon old ideas in the face of new. They must be willing to emerge from dialog as altered people.
Participants in dialog wish to see what can be discovered in their encounters with others. “Rather than reacting in a hostile way to each other’s opinions, parties must examine the meaning of these opposing opinions and assumptions. … Suspending assumptions makes people aware of their thought processes and brings about an enhanced level of consciousness.”
“Effective listening contributes to our capacity to learn and build relationships with others. When parties suspend judgment and genuinely listen to diverse perspectives, they can begin to expand their worldview.
“Listening allows for the development of new insights and allows parties to be influenced by one another. … Once they have listened carefully, parties can make better choices about their actions. Finally, listening is an important part of ‘confirmation.’
“Confirmation means that parties endorse each other, recognize each other, and acknowledge each other as people. They acknowledge an affiliation with each other and validate each other’s experience. Genuine listening is one of the central ways that parties can confirm each other’s existence and worth.”
In dialog, participants talk with one another rather than at one another. “Once they have laid all of the assumptions and opinions of group members out on the table, they can begin to do something that none of them can do separately.”
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