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Posts Tagged ‘Dialogue’

This posting should not be taken as an end all of marriage and communication.  Rather my exploration of my own marriage and communication.

What is the purpose of marriage?  What is the purpose of communication within marriage?  Why did I get married?  What do I hope to get out of my marriage?  These questions and more surface to me as I contemplate.

I married Trixy because I truly believe I was called to marry her.  Strange as that may sound.  It is my divine concept worldview that leads me to this conclusion.  We met, I was attracted, we continued getting to know each other.

However it is in this process that we see communication at work.  The day we met I was communicating with her and her classmates, just as I communicated every day with students and faculty.  The purpose of which was to ascertain levels of computer literacy and database search skills; to build up skills; and to build rapport – at the very least.

Aside from the literacy and skills based stuff, she gained my attention, quite by accident, in that she wore a bicycle century T-shirt.  We saw each other on campus.  She had my attention but along the way I had her’s as well.  If we had not we would not have exchanged verbal pleasantries when we bumped into each other.  However attention getting can be done in a build up or tear down way.  For me, a temper tantrum is negative, but a calm “I’ve been thinking /feeling about…” is positive.  Yet even as I write that I realize these attitudes are built on experiences and conceptions from my family and upbringing.  Rarely did we have to yell to gain attention and most often a temper tantrum for attention met with negative consequences – and thus the purpose of it was unfulfilled.

Now to hear a friend describe her interactions with her significant other, I would think they would be trying to bully the other into submission.  At least on first hearing the stories.  But as I probed deeper into her experiences I found that she was open to him and she believed he was open to her.  Yet their methods would not work for me.

I am suggesting the point of communication in marriage is to know and understand the other.  Not to exert pressure to get what I want.  The tools of dialogue and appreciative inquiry can be used, but one party cannot make another party participate.  If it were even possible to force dialogue the mere active of using pressure tactics would limit the value of dialogue.  Appreciative inquiry is possible to be more one-sided as it requires only one to ask questions.  But to be effective the other must answer in the spirit of a larger purpose.

In this sense is a marriage a marriage because of policy and law? or is marriage a marriage because the partners have committed to building up and not tearing down?  This building up and tearing down then become negotiated through communication.  Each person brings their worldview, experiences, beliefs, ethics, learning capacity, and so on as expectations of what marriage should (or is supposed to) be.  What it becomes will be a different reality from what the individual expects.

If the purpose of communication is to “win” the result may be one-sided.  If the purpose is “to one” then we may find some sort of success.

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It seems to me that most often, in communication, we are trying to drive home a message from one person or group to another. It seems the purpose of which is to get that other person or group to do something they might otherwise not do. A keyword to describe this would be “persuasion”.

I have heard it said that leadership is the art of persuading others to do what you want them to do while believing it is what they want to do. This would seem to define “effective communication” very specifically as having persuaded the “other”. Personally I think this is a failed definition or at the very least “weak” in terms of “real/authentic” communication as tied to “Leadership”. Again, here is where worldview and philosophical foundations play into what one calls “effective”. While there could be times where this type of communication is essential, leadership that depends on this method does seem weak to me. This type of leadership takes an “us vs them” and the “enemy is out there” approach to human interaction. It misses the connectedness of all and misses that we can be our own worst enemy.

Bohm Dialogue
I was introduced to David Bohm through the writings of Peter Senge (Fifth Discipline) and Joe Jaworski (Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership). I have not purchased Bohm’s book, “Dialogue”, but have reviewed a number of websites, including Wikipedia. The editors of the Wikipedia entry encapsulate four principles of Bohm Dialogue:
1. The group agrees that no group-level decisions will be made in the conversation.
2. Each individual agrees to suspend judgement in the conversation.
3. As these individuals “suspend judgement” they also simultaneously are as honest and transparent as possible.
4. Individuals in the conversation try to build on other individuals’ ideas in the conversation.

We can see glimpses of this in brainstorming sessions. The most satisfying brainstorming sessions in which I have participated are free from decisions and judgements; no one holds back their best contributions; and one thought often builds on another.

For Bohm (david-bohm.net/dialogue/) dialogue is sharing of thoughts. “Thought”, to his thinking is more than “mere” intellect or intellect’s output. Thought includes our fullness/wholeness: thoughts; emotions; feelings; etc. In this way we do not simply send a message. In dialogue we send ourselves, open and vulnerable. Additionally, Bohm’s dialogue has no apparent agenda (“Why Dialogue” paragraph 3).

Two paragraphs later, Bohm says that dialogue “is not concerned with deliberately trying to alter or change behavior nor to get the participants to move toward a predetermined goal.” I can think of various experiences of “dialogue” where there was a “Hidden” agenda behind the “dialogue” and other times a much closer experience to Bohm’s Dialogue. The experience of the hidden agenda is felt by participants and it changes participation (at least it did in me). I am left with wondering why we bothered to “do” the activity. When I questioned the person in charge once, than answer I got was basically, “I want every one to know they have been heard.” But the person’s mind was already made up and I am not sure he achieved that which he thought he had achieved. There were many discontented murmurings after the meeting.

On the other hand I have had very positive experiences in dialogue. While there was still an agenda of making a decision eventually, the decision surfaced through the contributions of all participants. The decision reflected the input and was seen in the outcomes.

I am reminded of Peter Jarvis’ thoughts on Human Learning (see my post of Sept 30, 2009). With this in mind, when we enter into Bohm Dialogue we bring all of our knowledge and learning as well as an openness to new learning.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bohm_Dialogue
http://www.david-bohm.net/dialogue/dialogue_proposal.html

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