Offense Doesn't Have to Be Offensive

Recently I facilitated or participated in discussions that were unnecessarily challenging because of communication choices individuals made, ones that simply do not work.  I rarely find that ...
  • Talking more loudly results in more listening;
  • Repeating your points more agitatedly elicits a different response;
  • Sighing indignantly ignites agreement; or
  • Interrupting others gets their attention.
While a monologue can make an enjoyable night of theatre, it isn't the best way to have great conversation.  We need more dialogue, the four tenets of which were outlined so concisely by William Isaacs in his book, Dialogue: The Art of Thinking Together.

Listening: “To listen together is to learn to be a part of a larger whole—the voice and meaning emerging not only from me, but from all of us.”

Respecting: “An atmosphere of respect encourages people to look for the sense in what others are saying and thinking. To respect is to listen for the coherence in others’ views, even when we find what they are saying unacceptable.”

Suspending: “Suspension means that we neither suppress what we think nor advocate it with unilateral conviction. … We simply acknowledge and observe our thoughts and feelings as they arise without feeling compelled to act on them.”

Voicing: “Speaking our voice has to do with revealing what is true for each of us, regardless of all the other influences that might be brought to bear on us.”

We live in a world where the answers to our challenges increasingly are not obvious.  Thinking better together requires that we slow down our conversations in order to let different perspectives be respectfully voiced and thoughtfully considered.  Only then might our listening lead to learning.

Quotes from “The Art of Dialogic Leadership”, by William Isaacs, The Systems Thinker, February 1999

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