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Sustaining the Quality of Dialogue

In support of richer community knowledge and initiative


This text is an experiment in dancing with traps and possibilities.


Moving on...
Rules

Many are able to articulate rules for dialogue. The trap is that the rules may only be congenial to the person formulating them. They may be alienating, arid impositions to others.

And then we ourselves may have to deal with rules formulated very reasonably by others. It is like being invited to someone's house and having to respond sensitively to their offerings of food and drink even when they are distasteful. We might well choose not to return.

Essentially we each bring our own sets of rules to a dialogue situation. Part of the difficulty is to step outside or beyond them.

Process methods

These might be considered another -- more dynamic -- way of framing rules. But the same challenges apply.

Thoughtful clarifications

This is such -- and as such runs rather similar risks to rules and process methods.

Intention

How is the encounter shaped by the intention of each? What quality can we bring to dialogue and what can we engender through it?

What is the intention in engaging in dialogue? What do we want or expect from it?

Diversity conservation

How can the diversity of the dialogue be conserved in the face of tendencies towards 'monoculture', 'desertification', 'flooding', or the like?

But if the dialogue floats freely from topic to topic, what indicates when this is tending into frivolity or lack of focus? And when is this not appropriate?

Embedding

A tendency to dialogue has embedded in it many of the challenges and opportunities of life in comunity, or in wider society.

For example, we may seek in dialogue:

  • nourishment, because we are hungry
  • recognition, because we need identity reinforcement
  • appreciation, because we lack self-esteem
  • stimulation, because we are bored with our circumstances and worldview
  • employment, because we need a sense of acheivement or distraction from familiar patterns
  • information, because we are curious or threatened by uncertainity
  • recreation, to satisfy a need to play
  • competition and opposition, in order to test ability in response to challenge
  • insight, because of a need to learn and understand
Quenching

But too much of anything in dialogue can quench enthusiasm and render the exchange unfruitful.

Moving on...

How can any sense of unfruitfulness be used to reorient the dialogue? How can it be used as an indicator -- built into the dialogue rather than ensuring its termination?

What if different people feel this unfruitfulness at different times?