— Peter Senge (On Dialogue, 2014)
“What we just experienced will change us forever,” I said to my colleague.
We had just had a series of remarkable aha moments while reading an article about engaging in dialogue based on the work of David Bohm.
The flashes of insights and new awareness that resulted were surprising.
And the ideas occurred in a way that neither of us had ever experienced before.
We both recognized that something very intriguing had just happened.
We knew it would change us forever and the way we listen ⏤ and it did.
The conversation started when I began talking about what I had learned at a workshop, led by Joseph Jaworski and Susan Taylor.
I tried to explain what I had learned about dialogue at the workshop, but I was having difficulty getting my points across.
In a moment of frustration, I suggested I read aloud the document on dialogue given to us at the workshop.
As I read through the document, periodically, I would pause to talk about what I just read. Then, my colleague would share what she heard from the reading and her interpretation of my understanding.
But we also took it a step further.
When our understanding of the text differed, we would ask each other questions to understand why we understood it the way we did.
Before we knew it, we realized something exciting was happening.
We were gaining new levels of understanding and insight to such a degree that it genuinely thrilled and stunned us.
What was happening here?
This conversation happened precisely six years ago.
This past week, I was reminded of it while reviewing my highlights from reading On Dialogue by David Bohm.
This time I discovered an important distinction that I had missed the first time I read the book.
I think Peter Senge captured what I described above perfectly in his Preface to the book:
In such a dialogue, when one person says something, the other person does not, in general, respond with exactly the same meaning as that seen by the first person. Rather, the meanings are only similar and not identical.
Thus, when the second person replies, the first person sees a difference between what he meant to say and what the other person understood. On considering this difference, he may then be able to see something new, which is relevant both to his own views and to those of the other person.
And so it can go, back and forth, with the continual emergence of a new content that is common to both participants.
In dialogue, each person doesn’t participate in teaching or enlightening others with their knowledge and understanding.
Instead, people are creating something new ⏤ together.
I liken it to listening from the infinite.
As we go back and forth listening to each other from a new order, we bring new knowledge and understanding that we didn’t have when we started.
As always, I welcome any feedback or suggestions that may come up from reading my newsletters.
Until next time, to your forward thinking life & successs!
Bill Fox, Founder at Space Beyond Boundaries