On the art of thinking together (Part 2)

What does it take to create a real flow of thoughts and dialogue?

Generative listening
It takes openness to allow otherness, indeed even to invite it with curiosity. And it demands 100 per cent concentration on the others.

Radical respect
Dialogue takes place at eye level, striving for a deep understanding together. Blame, criticism, debasement and defamation are dispensed with in dialogue. I am allowed to be who I am. And so are the others.

Speaking from the heart
Those involved in dialogue only speak when there is really something to say (what a wonderful prospect!), what is really important to them (even more wonderful).

Learning attitude
I only know my world and even that incompletely. I encounter the world of others with curiosity, interest and at an appropriate pace.

Suspending
Instead of simply unleashing an emotion or attacking others without reflection, I explore my feelings. What emotion am I feeling right now? Where does it come from? What does it remind me of? What lies behind my emotion? What is my need behind the emotion? A colleague of mine puts it this way: I hang up the emotion in front of me like a lamp and look at it. This way I keep emotions in abeyance and don’t run the risk of stopping the flow of the conversation by being impulsive.

Explaining the thought process
Suspending does not mean that feelings do not play a role in the dialogue. But I do not act them out without control. Instead, I explain my thoughts to the group and let others understand what is on my mind. There is an essential difference for me and for the others between unleashing my anger without reflection or saying: “I feel annoyance.” When I feel annoyance, I simultaneously distance myself from it. I learn to manage the anger and not let it take me by surprise.

Containing
And in a shared space of trust that is safe for everyone, mutual understanding can develop. For me, that is the basis for sustainable transformation.

How do you feel now? Does what I am writing sound difficult? I readily admit that I was completely overwhelmed when I was first confronted with dialogue 25 years ago. But today there is no organisational transformation process for me without practising the principles of dialogue with decision-makers and project teams. Dialogue the David Bohm way is a way for me to develop a group into a real team. It needs regular practice and certainly an experienced facilitator at the beginning. Because we need curiosity and courage to dare to try new things and shape transformation in a profound and sustainable way. By being able to be fully there in a dialogue and not just in the role others expect of us, trust is joined by transparency, professionalism, success and pleasure, indispensable ingredients for effective organisational transformation.

“Only when we show something of ourselves can others understand us. Open communication makes our cooperation more reliable. It provides a sense of security that can help address uncertainties and problems.” (Neue Narrative, Issue 10)

Dialogues can be a great joy, for me they are the nucleus of successful transformation in organisations. But the joy only works for a short time if essential principles are disregarded.

If you want to delve deeper into the topic of “dialogue”, I would like to recommend a few more publications:

– Martina & Johannes Hartkemeyer, Dialogische Intelligenz
– David Bohm, Infinite Potential
– Lee Nichol & David Bohm, Dialogue
– William Isaacs, Dialogue as the Art of Thinking Together

And now I hope you have fun experimenting. Or as a dear colleague with whom I regularly conduct Dialogues on change once mentioned: “Actually, all we have to do is talk to each other genuinely, and good things will emerge.”

Original text: HFI
English translation: BCO

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