Have you ever sat in a meeting where everyone is busy giving their point of view and trying to prove why they are right? Where no one is actually listening or trying to understand other individuals’ points of view. The alternative meeting format is where everyone listens to and agrees with meeting leader. No one contributes or adds ideas, they are just compliant.
In my experience most meeting are either one or other. But when you think about it, what is point of most meetings? Meetings are usually held to make decisions. The outcome that most people would want from meeting is that BEST decision is made, not that any decision is made, or another sub-committee is formed but that a decision that delivers results is made. Then we move on.
So as we hustle from meeting to meeting being very busy, achieving nothing in way of measurable results, we land up with yet another sub-committee. All because we have lost art of dialogue. So, question is; what is difference between dialogue and discussion?
DISCUSSION – Discussion is way that most people communicate. During discussion we present our ideas and everyone analyzes and dissects them from their different points of view. The purpose of discussion, though, it to make sure you win, or that your point of view is one that is accepted. During discussion you will support your idea and give your points more strongly until, eventually, others agree with you. You want to prove that you are right, and most knowledgeable, as does everyone else in discussion. Great! With everyone trying to win argument, no decision is ever made and we eventually need to form a sub-committee to decide. Or CEO, or team leader, uses his or her divine autocratic right and decides for team.
DIALOGUE – Dialogue on other hand is an exploration of ideas. It is not a new form of communication but is way ancient Greeks and many so called ‘primitive’ societies are seen to explore ideas. During dialogue everyone works together contributing towards idea. Remember team is greater than sum of parts; therefore more is achieved from dialogue as each person’s ideas add to last. In a dialogue no one is trying to win. They are trying to learn and create. They suspend their individual assumptions and explore ideas and issues. It is a free flow of ideas where participants continue to think and watch themselves think. The great physicists Heisenberg, Pauli, Einstein and Bohr described conversations they had with each other. As we know from history their conversations (dialogue) changed traditional physics because what they could achieve as a group exceeded what each could do as individuals. Interesting? So who is ‘primitive’ now?