Learning to Dialogue LO10158

Tue, 24 Sep 1996 16:04:31 -0400

Replying to LO10034 --

> From: "Michel, Christopher J" <michec@uh2297p01.daytonoh.ncr.com>
> Date: Wed, 18 Sep 1996 09:34:00 EDT
> Subject: Learning to Dialogue LO10034
> ....Participants [in dialogues] need to understand
> that periodic silence does not mean that they are being ignored, but
> instead that the active listening has engaged the suspension identified as
> an essential element by David.
> Which raises a question for me, how do we help those participating in the
> dialogue grasp these subtleties?


Obviously, one first has to be aware that communication is an imperfect
process between people. A general knowledge of communication skills and
dialogue is a basic prerequisite. If someone does not understand the
process, some basic teaching is in order.

Once people know the basics, I suggest they engage in a parallel
"meta-dialogue": a running, mostly silent commentary on the _process_ of
communication. If one is aware that an action (such as silence) is likely
to be misinterpreted, then one can comment on it out loud (e.g., "Hold on
a second, I've got to think about what you've said."). If one thinks that
the other person is acting in a non-productive manner, then one can ask
for a clarification (e.g., "Excuse me, but I can't tell if you're thinking
or just ignoring me.").

The skill of "meta-dialogue" is learned, so as it becomes more automatized
people find it is easier to focus on the content and to be aware of the
process at the same time. When I work with couples in my psychotherapy
practice, I often act like a coach on a practice field - periodically
stopping the action to comment on it, giving people time to think about
their actions and their choices, asking if they noticed something,
suggesting possibilities if they can't figure a situation out on their
own. In a sense, I have the "meta-dialogue" running in my head, while
(hopefully) providing just enough structure to keep the process productive
while allowing them the freedom to take risks and to learn from their



Jeff Brooks <BrooksJeff@AOL.com>

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>