Decision-making Through Dialogue
Dialogue is a necessary piece of the 21st century, however, at the same time, it became the monologue of our lives. We hear it from everywhere we turn that we need to be able to use it, but most of us don’t even know what it is. We know that movies have them and book readers are familiar with the concept, but most couldn’t describe the difference between a regular old conversation and dialogue. Why is it so important and why people who use it may live a more successful life than those who don’t?
The word itself comes from the Greek word ‘dialogos’. Most people think that the meaning has something to do with number two or the number of people that are supposed to be part of it. However, it just means ‘through words’ or ‘through the meaning of words’. Basically, it is just a tool, that ensures a flowy conversation between people, no matter the count of them. Dialogue is the art of listening and the gift of speaking. The conversation itself is in the center, meaning that there are no sides, there are no right or wrong answers, there are no dominating people who can push it forward. There are merely people who share their thoughts, feelings, experiences and then listen to the other participants. There are no losers, only winners, with the goal of having a deeper understanding of a certain thing (or maybe about themselves) than before. (Bohm 1996, 6-8)
Dialogue has a huge role in decision-making. It is a tool to get everyone on the same page and share thoughts in a non-threatening environment. As earlier mentioned, in dialogue there are no sides. It can be objective but can include emotions and feelings towards the matter, thus making it possible to look at the problem from all angles. Although this is not the quickest or most effective way of making a decision, especially when it concerns a bigger group of people, it is indeed the most rewarding. Everyone can be heard, included, and considered. It encourages teamwork and decreases the likelihood of competing for individual gains, thus reassuring success. All members may not completely agree with the outcome but can understand a different point of view and can adjust their way of thinking more easily to the results. Old-fashioned voting can be still part of the process; however, it is the last step after a long and comprehensive discussion by everyone included. (Jasper 2020)
On the other hand, voting is quick and dirty. The majority decides, often without a proper conversation beforehand. It creates winners and losers, and it might affect the interactions of the whole group, not everyone participates in the process with an equal amount. Naturally, there are pros to voting as well, such as the fact that it saves time and energy, it is very efficient. The meaning of majority is decided by the member ahead of time and everyone’s individual opinion is looked at, so voting is considered fair. Combining voting with dialogue might bring the best outcome, as there are many methods to go through with consensus. Having dialogue-then-vote rounds, while going into the subject deeper and deeper allow us to give different kinds of feedback on the same thing, attacking it from new standpoints. (PromotePrevent 2013)
Dialogue skills can be learned and developed, there are many exercises that support them. However, it cannot be forced. The number one task is to make the decision whether someone is ready to put their own ego aside and join others on the path of becoming better.
Personally, I am against the traditional way of voting. I prefer having dialogue and hearing everyone out. It is more creative and supports a better outcome that way. Depending on what is in question, voting is a useful tool once everyone had the chance to express themselves. I believe that the international environment that surrounds us demands dialogues even stronger. All the different countries, cultures, and languages mixing can bring a lot of perspectives but also a lot of disagreements as well, and when those disagreements are dealt with through voting they might leave a bigger problem behind. Consensus and dialogue enable us to turn our differences into an advantage, but it can just as easily go the other way.
Me, being the “loser” of many voting before, I have had the chance to learn about decision-making methods and realized that there is nothing wrong with me or my opinions. I just look at things with different eyes as I have a very unusual background which allows me to also think unusually. I believe, through dialogue, I could give a voice to these views and become a winner no matter the outcome.
Bohm, D. 1996. On Dialogue
Jasper, D. 2020. Voting vs Consensus Decision-making
PromotePrevent 2013. Decision-making Models: Voting vs Consensus