January 19, 2018

Archives for July 2012

The difference between dialogue and discussion

Group discussing plansReading David Bohm’s book “On Dialogue,” which, not surprisingly, has a particularly helpful exposition of the difference between dialogue and discussion…

(David Bohm was a renowned physicist of the twentieth century who also made great contributions to wider philosophical questions.)

“Dialogue,” Bohm says, comes from the greek “dialogos.” Logos means “the word,” or in this case, “the meaning of the word,” and “dia” means “through – it doesn’t mean “two.” He goes on: “A dialogue can be among any number of people, not just two. Even one person can have a sense of dialogue with himself.” Bohm says dialogue “will make possible a flow of meaning…out of which may emerge some new understanding…which may not have been in the starting point at all.”

“Discussion,” Bohm says, has the same root as “percussion” and “concussion” and “really means to break things up.” Discussion, therefore, is a process of analysing and breaking up and “will not get us far beyond our various points of view.” Rather, “the object of the game is to win or gain points for yourself.”

Dialogue, of course, makes more demands of our ability to participate effectively in a game in which the aim is for everyone to win together. In particular, we must be prepared to question our assumptions and make them explicit, which takes effort when many of them, including the most powerful among them, are held unconsciously.

Being properly clear on the difference between dialogue and discussion is a good start.

How much does it take to “be there” for someone?

Pensive manWe appreciate the value of knowing we can contact someone when things are difficult; knowing that that person will “be there” for us.

What does it really take to do this?

We might imagine it involves sharing the burden of the problem, and so shy away from the load. In fact, it doesn’t mean that at all. It’s not a question of rescuing them. Often, that’s not even possible, at least not from the literal situation.

Being there for someone means being contactable, sure, but above all, it means being a steadying presence with a consistent and honest and realistic response, reassuring them they are not alone as they go through whatever they have to go through, and that our energy is with them. The more grounded we are by the clarity of our own direction and purpose, and the deeper the place we come from, the better we will be able to do that.

It doesn’t cost so much. And the value is much greater than the cost, and not just to the other person.

What’s your experience of “being there” for someone, or of someone being there for you?

Did Andy Murray struggle with tears because he lost or because we cared?

Andy MurrayWimbledon… Andy Murray is expected to speak on live TV to millions of people having just lost to Roger Federer in the final, and struggles to compose himself as you can see here if you missed it at the time.

Some commentators wrote that he was in tears because he lost.


Andy Murray struggled with tears because people cared. Probably a few key people caring would have been enough; in fact there were some tens of thousands immediately present and millions beyond.

Fascinating that some of the commentators completely missed the point of the human drama.

Turns out Roger Federer agrees the caring is the thing that tips you over, as he makes clear in this video.

The power of such a large scale emotional connection is enormous. Overwhelming for the athlete expected to speak and, in other contexts, the stuff of changing the world.

So much, so obvious, we might think, but apparently not. And that lack of understanding wherever it arises represents an opportunity.

The power of exploring what they like

Three senior managersHe says that type of equipment “doesn’t cut it.”

So we ask “what’s wrong with that type of equipment?” The open question prompts him to expand on the problems. (Notice we didn’t ask why. More on that key piece below.)

But we soon realize we can do better. We’re learning about what he doesn’t like—bit of a waste of time, much productive to get the other person talking about they do like.

So, we interrupt—yes, we interrupt—and say, ”Hold on, let’s change the focus: What is it you do like about the other type of equipment?”

Now he’s off. His energy increases. He’s animated and talking articulately about what he likes. A couple more open questions to develop the theme and he suddenly realizes a deeper reason for his preference—quite a profound one in fact. Now, he has something he didn’t have before.

And we all have the shared pleasure of something discovered. Our relationship is strengthened, and rapidly.

So simple and yet so powerful…

Ask open questions, get people talking about what they like or want, and dig deep until something new emerges.

Is that a practiced part of your skill-set? I’d suggest it is.

The trouble with “why?”

The trouble with a question beginning with why is (1) it can sound judgemental and (2) it’s vague about what we are looking for. We give away control of the conversation by asking it.

We can always ask a better question than one beginning with “why” such as “what’s the reason for…?” or “what is you like about…?” That way we keep control.

That one piece of learning alone makes a big difference—another good one to practice.

Change yourself, change your company

Group of people talkingIf you don’t have authority to instruct change (do you ever?), here’s a way to look at what needs to happen…

1. Build rapport with a larger and larger set of people within the entity you hope to influence.

2. Then, as you change yourself, the rapport group you’re connected to will change as well, provided you stay in rapport with them.

What is rapport? For this purpose, a good description is an unconscious sense of connection with another person or a group, arising from a feeling of being alike in some way. That’s something we can work on.

Try to change too fast, and you’ll break rapport with some or all of the group, and the bigger the change you want to lead, the deeper the level of rapport you’ll need.

A little patience is required to achieve change this way, but it’s lasting. Maybe it’s the only way that really works.

It’s all about being in rapport with your audience—the community, if you like.

Just because it’s a snappy phrase doesn’t mean it’s true

Audience applauding, perhaps taken in by the speakerWe love sayings like these…

“Many hands make light work”

“The more you tell the more you sell.”

“What gets measured gets done.”

They certainly sound convincing.

But are they true?

In most cases, yes and no. You can usually find another clever phrase that states the opposite. Now they might well both be true, or both not true. It depends on the circumstances.

You decide, that’s the thing.

Vulnerability or openness? And why it matters

Three people, two shaking handsIf we show vulnerability, we will attract other people and they will respond to our leadership, or so it is often said.

I think it’s better to use another word: Openness.

Being open is the key.

Yes, vulnerability is a consequence of being open, but being open is a more easily adopted behavior. It’s quite different to suggest to somebody (or ourselves) that they be open, rather than they be vulnerable. The result is similar, but being open is positive and strong.

The thing is…

Being open means our relationships develop more quickly, and deepen too.

Why is that?

Well, if we are closed and defensive and so try and connect at a shallow and superficial level, we engage on territory where we are all very different, and so probably mismatched. On the other hand, if we are open, without the layers, and connect at a deeper level, we move to a place where we are much more alike and so more likely to find common ground.

Those that travel the world often say, people are much the same wherever you go. Yes, at a certain level, there are cultural differences, but at a deeper, fundamental level, human beings are driven by the same things—a desire to love and be loved, to hope, and to leave a legacy and make a difference. They also care deeply about children.

By being open, we invite people to connect at a level of common humanity and that’s a much more reliable route to success. It’s also simply quicker.