Dialogue

I’ve been working my way through Linda Ellinor & Glenna Gerard’s Dialogue which is a “how-to” guide to creating the sort of conversations envisioned by David Bohm in his Proposal on Dialogue and also described in William Isaac’s book.

I see it gets mixed reviews on Amazon. Critics find it superficial or even a sell-out: “This book exploits the whole intent of dialogue turning it into yet another training tool and management consulting technique” I see where these critics are coming from, especially towards the end of the book when authors recommend talking to organisation development professionals to get things done. However, I think the general attack is a bit harsh, because this book takes a topic that easily lends itself to abstruse and esoteric language and makes it accessible.

(I’m concerned that much writing about complex systems slides towards making them sound complicated, which is ironic. I am much more drawn to writing with a simple quality that evokes a sense of the subject and leaves the reader to appreciate the paradoxes and ambiguities. I have more to say in this in my chapter for More Space, coming soon.)

My belief is that the dialogue process itself will teach the participants. An accessible guide that gets more people experimenting makes a really useful contribution. I certainly found this book helpful in clarifying some practical principles and I found myself flagging all sorts of nuggets. Here’s one I really enjoyed.

Silence is a paradox for many of us. When the noise and busyness of our lives overwhelm us, we crave silence. Minute to minute, we discard silence as non-useful and unproductive. Often, we actively avoid it. The ability to work with silence, with the pauses in which we listen and reflect, is a capacity few people have developed. A group that has learned to sit together in silence for mre than a few minutes at a time is most likely a group that has developed a certain level of trust among members and in itself is a learning community.

I love that. Some of the most satisfying experiences I’ve had in groups have been in silences.

(If you’re interested in Dialogue, I’m co-hosting an evening here in Islington to experience the process on October 10th – email me for details or leave a comment.)

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