For some, dialogue is a focused and intentional conversation, a space of civility and equality in which those who differ may listen and speak together. For others it is a way of being—mindful and creative relating. In dialogue, we seek to set aside fears, preconceptions, the need to win; we take time to hear other voices and possibilities. Dialogue can encompass tensions and paradoxes, and in so doing, new ideas—collective wisdom—may arise.

Definitions of dialogue

From David Bohm on Dialogue

“Dialogue” comes from the Greek word dialogos Logos means ‘the word’, or in our case we would think of ‘the meaning of the word’. And dia means through’—it doesn’t mean ‘two’…. The picture or image that this derivation suggests is of a stream of meaning flowing among and through, and between us. This will make possible a flow of meaning in the whole group, out of which may emerge some new understanding. It’s something new, which may not have been in the starting point at all. It’s something creative. And this shared meaning is the ‘glue’ or ‘cement’ that holds people and societies together.

The object of a dialogue is not to analyze things, or to win an argument, or to exchange opinions. Rather, it is to suspend your opinions and to look at the opinions—to listen to everybody’s opinions, to suspend them, and to see what all that means…. We can just simply share the appreciation of the meanings, and out of this whole thing, truth emerges unannounced—not that we have chosen it.

Everything can move between us. Each person is participating, is partaking of the whole meaning of the group and also taking part in it. We can call that a true dialogue.

Dialogue is the collective way of opening up judgments and assumptions.


From William Isaacs Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together

Dialogue… is a conversation with a center, not sides. It is a way of taking the energy of our differences and channeling it toward something that has never been created before. It lifts us out of polarization and into a greater common sense and is thereby a means for accessing the intelligence and coordinated power of groups of people.

The roots of the word dialogue come from the Greek words dia and logos . Dia means ‘through’; logos translates to ‘word’ or ‘meaning’. In essence, a dialogue is a flow of meaning. But it is more than this too. In the most ancient meaning of the word, logos meant ‘to gather together’, and suggested an intimate awareness of the relationships among things in the natural world. In that sense, logos may be best rendered in English as ‘relationship’. The Book of John in the New Testament begins: “In the beginning was the Word ( logos )”. We could now hear this a “In the beginning was the Relationship.”

To take it one step further, dialogue is a conversation in which people think together in a relationship. Thinking together implies that you no longer take your own position as final. You relax your grip on certainty and listen to possibilities that result simply from being in a relationship with others –possibilities that might not otherwise have occurred.

To listen respectfully to others, to cultivate and speak your own voice, to suspend your opinions about others—these bring out the intelligence that lives at the very center of ourselves—the intelligence that exists when we are alert of possibilities around us and thinking freshly.

Source: Clark University


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