Living Through Dialogue

Dialogue grows Trust

Dialogue, its various feedback, and confrontation are all three critical behaviours for growing trust in the relationship. All three keep reaching out to the other(s), under any circumstance. The pitfall is to justify deviating from these behaviours by saying: “Because the other did as well” or “He/she is not capable of any dialogue”. Inevitably, the pitfall will erode trust in the relationship and results will go down.

In any dialogue, three levels can be identified which are interdependent and can never be separated. They play out simultaneously: the strategic dialogue (focus on content), the relationship dialogue (focus on the relation) and the inner dialogue (focus on the individual connection to the dialogue)

Dialogue, Feedback and Confrontation

Dialogue is the foundation of growing any constructive relationship. It unleashes the synergetic potential of relationships. Dialogue is the exchange between two or more people on all levels of knowing and awareness: experience, expertise, intuition and feeling. The dialogue is grounded in active listening to one another. The pitfall of the dialogue is for any party to be in a telling mode.

The core question to feedback is: “Do I come across as I intended?” or: “Is the impact I receive intended by the other person?” Feedback is grounded in understanding the match between intention and impact. The pitfall of feedback is judging. Judging makes you superior in the relationship, distancing yourself from the other.

Confrontation is intensified feedback, filled with presence and force. It is all about holding on to your commitment of clarifying distortions in the relationship, despite the intensity and tension experienced in the moment. The Crucial attitude is to radiate whatever it takes, that: “I do respect you and can’t stand it that we can’t resolve our disagreement!” Confrontation is grounded in respect for the other(s). The pitfall is to get lost in the interpersonal stress that is ignited. This stress easily ignites fighting the other(s), geared to winning and always resulting in losing.

The Strategic Dialogue

The strategic dialogue is the exchange focussed on the content of the topic, on what it is about, on what needs to be done. It is dominated by reasoning and by exchanging underlying professional standards, norms, expertise, beliefs, and do’s and don’ts. The pitfall is to turn the dialogue into a debate, geared to win – lose. Preventing the pitfall requires, whilst having the strategic dialogue, to be open to how the relationship dialogue is evolving.

The Relationship Dialogue

The relationship dialogue is addressing whether participants in the dialogue are, irrespective of their level of agreement, still open to listen to each other. Whether people are still on the same wavelength (or not), they are appreciative of what is going on (or not), and are still living the stressful dynamic of Healthy Friction (or not). The pitfall is either to be too inclusive/nice or too exclusive/dismissive. In both instances, the richness of the dialogue gets lost. Preventing this pitfall requires awareness about what is going on inside of me in order to, whilst having the relationship dialogue, stay connected to my inner dialogue.

The Inner Dialogue

The inner dialogue is my awareness about my self, at any moment, inside and outside a relationship. It is about being in touch simultaneously, at multiple levels, with what is going on inside of me. How my expertise, my experience, my intuition, and my feelings are evaluating the data that my senses provide me with, and what the resulting behaviour is that I demonstrate. The pitfall of inner dialogue is to become self-absorbed, turning my perceptions into my convictions. Mastering this inner dialogue requires me to become a student of me, getting to know my inner truth, learning about my convictions, my drivers, my response mechanisms and the behaviour patterns stored in me.

Dialogue fosters Relationships & Results

Growing Relations & Results highly benefits from constant and simultaneous attention for the strategic, the relationship and the inner dialogue. When the strategic dialogue is not grounded in the relationship dialogue, and when this one in turn is not grounded in the inner dialogue, the consequence is, at best, a sub-optimal relationship leading to, at best, sub-optimal results. It triggers, often unconsciously, behaviours further disconnecting the participants: masking, subtle sabotage, implosion and explosion. Masking is about pretending and by doing so, confuses the participants in the conversation. Subtle sabotage is about behaving ‘against’, hardly noticeable for the other, dragging the energy. Implosion is about withdrawing your energy, abandoning the other. Explosion is about overdosing your energy, whipping out at the other. As a human being, I need those behaviours when being in anonymous or even hostile environments. But not with people I value, who are dear to me, in work or at home.