“Many of the conflicts in our lives and in the world are caused by misunderstandings. Sometimes we jump to conclusions about why others do things. Sometimes we don’t understand the cultural differences of others. Poor communication makes the conflict worse. Real dialogue can often lead to understanding, helping us to get along much better.” – Robert Alan Silverstein
The ability to speak and communicate with each other is something intrinsically linked to human nature. If you agree with this premise shouldn’t this be the alternative to “constructive criticism” which is 9 times out of 10 a one way communication session that is punitive and authoritarian in nature?
Dialogue derives from the Greek word dialogos: logos can be explained as “meaning of the word” and dia means “through.” Dialogue can, therefore, be defined as a conversation between two or more people and also as an exchange of opinions or ideas. Talking together often means debating, discussing with a view to convincing the other, arguing our point of view, examining pros and cons, making the “stream of meaning” flow among and through people, in the whole group. From this, some new form of understanding may emerge.
This dynamic and relation-changing process enables people to talk deeply and personally about some of the major issues and realities that divide them. Dialogue often involves the weighing of various options and the consideration of different viewpoints; all that often leads to both personal and collaborative action.
In a real democratic and “open society,” whose fabric is mainly made up of tolerance and pluralism, the aim of a dialogue is not reaching a unanimous consensus among the people involved or convincing the listener that one’s ideas or opinions are absolutely correct or irrefutable. It is rather sharing one’s perspectives and experiences with one another about difficult issues; the main point is not judging or making decisions, but understanding and learning.
For the leader, manager or supervisor it allows them to put all issues on the table and it dispels stereotypes, builds trust and enables people to be open to perspectives that are very different from their own. In other words it opens the door for employee change. Everyone involved in a dialogue makes a serious effort to take others’ viewpoints into their own picture of the world, even when disagreement persists.
Conducting a dialogue among people advocating different ideas was considered by ancient Greek philosophers, such as Socrates and Aristotle, to be a form of exploration for inquiry into the truth of the context that brings people together for the dialogue session.
The essence of an alternative approach to “constructive criticism” is what this thing called dialogue is all about.
“The reality today is that we are all interdependent and have to co-exist on this small planet. Therefore, the only sensible and intelligent way of resolving differences and clashes of interests, whether between individuals or nations, is through dialogue.” – The Dalai Lama