Foundations for Constructive Dialogue
Harmony in our interactions is achieved by the coexistence of differences, just as many machines require resistance to operate effectively. Engagements in dialogues that address our differences may be more difficult than avoiding, judging, or maintaining those differences.
Try these tips:
- Remember to practice grounding and centering skills to increase safety, empathy, and understanding that you have already built. Go back to those skills as needed when you explore and face differences.
- Recognize you have conflicted, inner voices that may represent agression, compassion, wisdom, bias, fears, hopes, etc. Practice awareness of these voices and learn how to understand their intention and how to balance them and even them together.
- Be curious about exploring your desire to know the full story and the big picture of your opponent’s position.
- Allow for the possibility that you have blind spots in your understanding of yourself, the other, and the situation.
- Identify common ground and differences: Consider creating a diagram of two overlapping circles in which you put your views in one circle, the other’s views in the second circle, and the views that you may share in the overlap of the two circles.
- Challenge yourself to maintain an awareness of your partner’s humanity no matter how deeply you disagree. Dignify and honor the other person rather than shame or attack.
- Alternate speaking carefully, one important idea / feeling at a time.
- Remember “slower is faster” at this stage of dialoguing differences.
- Remember that this “process” is more important than any agenda to “fix” the differences.
- Shift the focus from being adversarial to understanding: Reflect, validate, and empathize with what the other person has said.
- Continue asking / sharing “What do I have to gain and / or lose if I open up to the validity of what the other is believing, feeling, or needing?”
Open Up to Ideas
- Consider that many situations do not require being right or wrong.
- Honor differences as possibly additive, not contentious.
- Notice when a new idea or awareness occurs. Stop, and let it sink in. Write it down. You don’t have agree with it.
- Hold both your ideas and the other’s ideas in your mind at the same time. This expands your tolerance to seeing many views and holding the tension of opposites without undue stress.
Dialogue First, Negotiate Next
- Wait until you both understand and respect your differences before trying to negotiate any strategies or solutions to solve any situation.