When we’re present (in the now) we usually hear what is being said to us, but may not understand or agree with what is being said. When a speaker speaks they need to know that they are being listened to, understood and maybe that agreement also results? This is typical conversation taking place between people that may not feel as equals. Here I could be referring to parent/child, teacher/ student, boss/employee, or any relationship where hierarchy exists. This is a picture of the speaker with power to influence, the listener not having their true voice, making the probability of an honest exchange between speaker and listener remote.
On the other hand, where and when genuine dialogues takes place, people, at least during the period dialogue happens, feel and therefore are temporarily equals. Now, hearing, understanding and even agreement becomes part of the environment. If the one with power to influence empowers the other and this becomes the listener’s experience and feelings, dialogue will lead to hearing, understanding and real possibility of agreement.
The difference between dialogue and conversation are worlds apart. Typical talk or instructions from people with power down to people that feel powerless (feeling powerless is identical to being powerless) is usually a waste of time. Those that use power to dominate may believe they are heard, understood and agreed with. They may be heard and maybe understood, but expecting agreement is rare, compliance the more likely. Not what a true leader wants so people in power are responsible for building trust and empowering those they hold power over. Since dialogue, if it is to take to take place, must be between equals, how else can this take place?
In my workshops I frequently stopped lecturing and made it a point to ask each participant, looking directly at them, to tell me what they heard, understood and their feelings and thoughts. If they did not want to share I thanked them and went to the next person and asked the same questions. When someone spoke I listened and confirmed what they said. I never asked them to agree with me. They shared thoughts and feelings, I listened. In time everyone talked and interrupted too. Lecturing became dialogue. Sy