November 30, 2015
Twelve times during his address to Congress on September 24, 2015, Pope Francis used the word “dialogue.” For example: “I want to take this opportunity to dialogue…”; “I would like to enter into dialogue…”; and “resume the path of dialogue…”
What is a good dialogue? It’s the give and take of information and ideas – and it’s central to conflict management and resolution. There are a number of skills and techniques that you have to employ to assure you’re having a good dialogue: All are critical communication skills.
Let’s start with listening. It’s probably the most misunderstood communication skill we use. Listening is not waiting for your turn to talk – i.e., thinking about what you are going to say next while the other person is talking. With this approach, we aren’t HEARING what is being said, so odds are our response doesn’t move the communication process forward. Effective listening includes:
Effective dialogue involves the free flow of relevant information – where people are openly and honestly expressing their opinions, sharing their feelings, and articulating their theories willingly, even when their ideas are controversial or unpopular. It’s a two-way exchange of information and ideas. People involved have to be aware of what’s happening and what’s being said. The following can help with meaningful dialogue:
If one of the objectives of your dialogue is to get good information from someone else, you can do so by varying the types of questions you ask:
Since dialogue is a two-way exchange, you want to give good information as well. When you give information, you want it to be relevant, precise, and accurate. You want to ensure that the other person receives the information you intend for them to have. Beware of providing too much information at one time. It could be overwhelming.
Be specific and provide details. Ask yourself, “What information do I have that the other person needs?” Lack of specificity causes problems because people are not mind readers. Be honest and positive rather than negative. We hear and remember positive words better than negative words and the listener is more likely to remember what you said. Be accurate and check your facts.
It is important to encourage reactions and suggestions. Allow the other party to provide input and suggestions. Allow the other person to state his or her point of view without arguing or becoming defensive. Listen to learn. Be prepared to adjust your viewpoints, if necessary. As you work to create a two-way exchange of information, stay flexible about who asks the questions and who states concerns or provides information first.
Recognize that silence allows time to reflect and think about the information you’ve already received and to frame additional questions. Don’t interpret it as a negative. Hear silence as its intended.
Great dialogue leads to effective conversations. Effective conversations have balance, maintain confidence and self-esteem, and build trust, integrity, and constructive relationships. These are goals that all leaders should embrace. Greater dialogue and less shouting moves conflict away from positions and toward common, mutual interests.