Over the past two years perhaps my most significant learning with regard to my own thinking has been developed in dialogue. With the help of colleagues and informed by protocols with which we work, dialogue can become a powerful tool in ‘setting the space’ required to be creative, seeking solutions to some of our most profound and confronting issues in understanding and practice of our complex work.
We need to first understand the difference between discussion and dialogue. When we come together to discuss a theme/topic the overall aim of the ‘talk’ is to break down the ideas or themes and, at times, agree and disagree with related opinions. Like a concussion (a violent blow to the head) or percussion (the collision of two bodies to make a sound) a discussion denotes that there will be some deliberate breaking down of parts in order to arrive at a an agreeable or defined point. Different to this is the aim of dialogue. Tom Barrett, who I have been fortunate enough to work in dialogue with over the past two years explains:
Dialogue is different to discussion, the former being much more akin to building and developing ideas together in a highly supportive environment.
This is an important distinction to remember when we ask each other to engage in dialogue. Simply being mindful of the difference between the two different aims of “talking” to each other about our work can change disposition with which we approach our work. As a staff, let us be mindful of when we choose to use words like discussion and dialogue and ensure that we are sticking to the protocols we allow us to develop the creative spaces we need to solve problems together, in true collaboration.