Dialogue: The Art of Thinking Together

Book Club: Isaacs, W. (2008). Dialogue: The art of thinking together. Crown Business. [GoodReads review]

This book was suggested as part of preparation for participating in an Unconference. The purpose for this resource was to maximise the limited time, within a group of people with an interest in education but who were not known to each other, so to enable conversation and dialogue to occur in the one day timeframe. 

Dialogue is about “shared inquiry, a way of thinking and reflecting together”(pg. 9). 

This inquiry can involve telling stories and the ability to think and talk together. How we think does affect how we talk, with relation to our held memory and emotions.

“Dialogue is a practice for deliberately and consciously evoking powerful conversations like these” (pg 70).

The aim is to create mutual respect, coordination and connection within a group of people.  

  1. Listening
  2. Respecting
  3. Suspending
  4. Voicing 

Why is this important, well dialogue occurs in all walks of life. This approach can be used to work together, resolve conflicts (be warned this is not an easy process, the book provides many examples of dialogic discussion) and solve problems. The aim is to empower and create new ways of thinking and working together.

3 Levels of action in a dialogue (pg. 29-30):

  1. Produce coherent actions: do what we say,
  2. Create fluid structures of interaction,
  3. Provide an environment for dialogue to occur.

Path to Dialogue

Purpose of Dialogue

  • determine what is the problem?
  • In the world of information overload, dialogue can determine what truly matters to us?
  • Build capacity for new behaviour.
  • Learn to inquire together.

4 Principles of Dialogue

  1. Participation
  2. Unfolding
  3. Awareness
  4. Coherence

Learn to Listen

  • Prepare to listen
  • Learn to be present
  • What are you thinking?
  • Use reflective listening, see how others are experiencing the situation
  • Listen together

Listening Together

  • Respecting boundaries, but not being passive
  • Wholeness of the conversation
  • Awareness, the ability to suspend directions/opinions using reflection in action
  • Foster enquiry
  • Voice

The Environment

  • The container: for a rich field of interaction
  • Psychological safety

Keywords: Dialogue; Dialogic: Listening; Respect; Voice; Change Management

References

Argyris, C. (1977). Double loop learning in organizationsHarvard business review55(5), 115-125.

Argyris, C., & Schon, D. A. (1974). Theory in practice: Increasing professional effectiveness. Jossey-Bass.

Bohm, D., & Peat, F. D. (2010). Science, order and creativity. Routledge.

Isaacs, W. (2008). Dialogue: The art of thinking together. Crown Business. [GoodReads review]

Isaacs, W. N. (1993). Taking flight: Dialogue, collective thinking, and organizational learningOrganizational dynamics22(2), 24-39.

Yacavone, M. (2010). A Summary of… David Kantor’s Four-Player Model of Communication.

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