Dialog Practice

Dialog – The Four Individual Practices

The term dialog has a range of meanings – even among Organization Communication theorists. When I use it, I mostly mean Dialog, in the Bohmian sense – of listening to the field around and within us to discover what is trying to emerge. It can seem a bit mystical, more so than other uses for the word. But that’s why I like it – that, and the fact that I’ve found it very helpful as a framework for shedding light on my own communication struggles, more so than other approaches I’ve tried.

Anyway – in Dialog, there are 4 conversational skills that individuals can practice, which help a group come to shared understanding and deeper connection. I find them very useful to assessing where discussions fall apart or succeed, and helpful as focal points for my own efforts.

Those 2 skills or ‘practices’ are:

  • Listening
  • Respecting
  • Suspending
  • Voicing

I’ll say more about each in separate posts as we proceed, but if you want to dig in on your own, the best book for learning to apply the practice is ‘Dialog and the Art of Thinking Together” by William Isaacs. And the best exposition of the theory itself, is David Bohm’s own “On Dialog”, which is a small book and an easy read.

In any case, Isaacs calls the 4 practices ‘Building Capacity for New Behavior”, and my experience says he’s right on. Because they don’t just change behavior, they change the thinking that causes behavior. I find them far more effective than any action plan or program for personal (or spiritual) growth.