Effective Dialogue – What every team entrepreneur should know about external and internal dialogue
Kirjoittanut: Tommy Karvinen - tiimistä Ei tiimiä.
In each Proakatemia team, internal communication comes up as one of the developing aspects. If messages and ideas do not come to the team as easily understandable information, everyone in the team may not understand the concept behind, for example with business decisions teams often make in Proakatemia. This usually leads to people being lost and non-productive. These problems are not solved by maximizing internal communication by a pile of information. The solution is to break boundaries and go out of the black and white “I am always right” mindset and try to listen to others more using dialogue.
It is important to respect each other’s opinions and try to understand each other more every day. This has to be doubled in multicultural teams, for example in our team Syntre. Due to our team’s cultural differences, visions are usually really diverse, and our team needs to listen to everyone’s ideas and thoughts more to find common solutions to problems. To be a team, we need to understand each other, otherwise, we are just a group of individuals working with our own experiences and understanding only ourselves.
This essay will clarify the difference between having a dialogue and debating, explain common aspects of good dialogue and how to ruin a dialogue. In the last chapter, a reader will learn the importance of self-dialogue.
Dialogue or debate
According to Sitra’s article, debate and dialogue are completely different from each other. Let’s start with defining the word debate. The core meaning of debate is to protect an individual’s point of view against an opposite point of view. There is usually a lot of criticism against an opponent’s point of view. The goal of the debate is to clarify if the claim is right or wrong by using research and arguing about it. It is more important to win an argument than find the best solution to a problem. Great examples of this can be found in American politics, for example, the presidential election.
(Holm & Poutanen & Ståhle, 2018)
Dialogue is the opposite of debate. In dialogue, no one is right or wrong without first giving them a chance to open their point of view. The dialogue is not necessarily meant for finding the right solution but is more about having the deeper level of conversation possible. Dialogue is an open pondering and conversation around the topic. Dialogue can broaden participants big picture of the topic and improve the ability to make circumspect decisions. Dialogue’s purpose is to help individuals understand each other more and give meaning to the topics discussed. The most important steppingstone for dialogue is to learn to respect others’ opinions and treat others as equal to yourself.
(Holm & Poutanen & Ståhle, 2018)
The common aspects of a debate and dialogue are to find the most relevant information and use common logic for having a more complex conversation around the topic. In a debate there is also a possibility that after listening to the opposite point of view, the original opinion may change, thus leading to both sides finding a common understanding. In that case, debate changes its nature more into the dialogue side.
(Holm & Poutanen & Ståhle, 2018)
Guidelines for an effective dialogue
Together with thinking, so-called dialogue is a conversation. This conversation aims to make everyone understand each other. It is known that by listening more to others, individuals learn more about themselves in the process. Dialogue is a tool meant for improving conception, learning new things, or producing new solutions. It is good to know, that dialogue may not always lead to harmony or solving disagreements.
Dialogue is easy to understand for most people, but it is harder to master than expected. These are the means to strengthen the dialogue as a participant.
- Be present. Find time on your schedule to be part of the meeting. When you are at the meeting, focus on the people and what they have to say without any disruptions from any unnecessary equipment such as phone or computer.
- Follow the structure of the meeting, without interrupting. Wait for your chance to talk, after first listening to others opening up their visions.
- Make conversation develop even further. Share your point of view by adding something brand new to the table. Bring relevant experience, information, or ideas forward for everyone to hear. Be an active part of the conversation.
- Find new ways to look at the topics and improve your thinking by focusing on the bigger picture.
- Ask questions. Politely ask questions from others and positively challenge their ideas to understand others more. Try to make the discussion go even deeper and make others think more deeply about the topic. This leads to finding the purpose of the topic.
- Give space for dialogue to develop. Let everyone bring out their point of view and give time for others to think about the topic. After everyone had brought something useful to the dialogue, help others to find solutions using the previous discussion.
- Control your emotions. It is humanly to show your passion towards topics, but don’t let them ruin dialogue, by acting out. Feel them out later, after the discussion by your own time.
- Respect others. Put yourself on the same level as others and respect everyone’s opinion. Don’t put anyone on a pedestal. Everyone is an equally important part of the conversation and everyone’s voice counts.
- Trust each other. By implementing trust in the group, people feel freer and more open-minded at sharing their vision. This is called psychological safety.
- Bring out a positive attitude to the conversation. Make the atmosphere supportive and positive for the whole group.
- Self-reflect after the meeting. To improve individual dialogue skills think about how the dialogue worked, what to improve, what to take into practice and what was learned. Finally, reflect on how you participated in the dialogue to find out if there was something you as an individual should do better in the future.
As seen, every previous step is easy to understand, but the challenge comes from remembering to focus and use these as a reminder of what an individual should bring to the dialogue. It is harder to do in practice than in theory. Even one individual bringing bad energy to the dialogue circle will affect everyone’s dialogue.
How to ruin a dialogue
As it is in theory easy to build a positive environment for dialogue to flourish, it is way easier to completely ruin the mood of promising dialogue. These are the means to be a “not so liked” participant in a dialogue circle.
- Be absent. You are too busy to even participate in the meeting. If you are present in a meeting remember to touch the phone most of the time. Think about everything else than the discussion topic.
- Remember to disturb the conversation. We all know you have this magic ball for predicting what visions and experiences others are going to bring to the conversation. Remember to talk as much as possible.
- Remember to take a role. Your amazing opinions and experiences are the only thing the team needs. No one can simply bring anything that useful to the table.
- Turn people to your side. As earlier said, your opinions are simply so amazing, that everyone should agree. Remember to use the power of peer pressure to make everyone show that they agree with you.
- Remember to win. Win by arguments around the topic, use your authority in advance or simply just attack others final weaknesses, such as personality. If they get shocked by what you say, you get your vision agreed on and you win.
- Jump early to conclusions and demand instant action. Rushing means saving time. When there is just one solution found, just use that one immediately. There is no need to go deeper into the conversation.
- Go against every idea others are bringing to the conversation. Just for the principle.
- Complain a lot. Predict every bad thing that may happen and bring it up to the conversation as it is likely to happen if they choose to follow some other idea than yours.
- Make a huge scene. Remember to include a lot of unnecessary emotions and go extra wild, so you can get more people to focus just on you. By Tupac Shakur’s quote, “all eyes on me”.
- Use your always ready to use panacea. It works with everything since every problem is solved by these amazing, simple solutions.
- Break the structure of the discussion. Change topics often and talk as long as possible just to mess up the schedule. Make it harder to focus on the topic.
- Be shy and quiet. Don’t share any of your visions and let others handle everything. Remember to listen too much.
As easy to see, these are absolutely the worst elements participant can bring to the dialogue. Everyone should be useful for the dialogue to develop further and reach a complex conclusion. Every participant is an equally important part of the dialogue and its success. It is mostly about an attitude towards dialogue situations.
Normally the word dialogue is pictured as having a conversation with someone else, but it is also important to have an internal conversation with yourself to handle emotions and improve throughout the life cycle. In self-dialogue, a positive thought process is a key to being motivated to reach wanted results and final success. If we as emotional human beings repeat every day that we completely suck at something, we will never even make the first step to reach success on that subject. In another hand, if we tell ourselves that we can do it, we will eventually reach that goal we want to achieve. Positive thinking provides that extra energy to have that drive and motivation to achieve success. In self-dialogue, the goal is to control our emotions in a way that we ask ourselves why we do something and find the purpose behind the everyday things we do to reach that object we want to reach. It is necessary to focus more on common-sense thinking, than letting emotions take the control of individuals thinking.
I don’t think Elon Musk repeats to himself,
“I certainly can’t occupy Mars. It can’t be done. It’s too hard.”
According to Learnwell (N.d) published article “in negative thinking, a lot can be put into the consequences of fatigue and frustration”. In self-dialogue, every strong thought turns to words and words turn to actions. Everything said has a meaning and an effect. For example, if an individual has negative thoughts, they can take control of a person, thus leading to the individual acting negatively towards others and ruining the dialogue in a meeting scenario.
On another hand, if an individual trust and motivate himself/herself for example to manage to reach some goal and focus on positive aspects of the process, there is a possibility that this positive energy comes out as encouraging and supporting others and with all-around positive words. Positive thinking usually affects a person longer, than negative thinking since at the end of the day humans usually want to be happy.
In Learnwell’s (n.d) article, there is mentioned three different mentally challenging situations and examples where self-dialogue takes the role. In the first situation, a prisoner of war is being interrogated by an enemy. This situation is practised in the Norwegian army using POW-practise. The practice is a physically and mentally tiring experience. It starts with a long theory part and ends with a practical experience of the interrogation situation. This 80 hour of practice starts when a person is already really tired. It is physically and mentally putting pressure on the person under someone else’s control. In this situation, internal strength is the key to surviving. A tired prisoner needs to focus on being relaxed, motivate himself/herself to gather positive energy, look around options for escaping and all-around keep control of the emotions. Prisoner needs to keep control of the situation. If the prisoner let even the smallest amount of negative energy such as despair, self-pity or anything bringing negativity to take control of himself/herself, it is over. The prisoner will lose control of the situation and give up mentally and physically under the enemy. This really interesting mental practice can be found in the book “Helvetinviikko” by Erik Bertrand. This self-dialogue practice teaches the skills of focusing our thoughts on the right things needed to survive in the situation and to not give up under the pressure.
In the second situation, self-dialogue is found in the sport of boxing. A boxer usually defies the opponent they are going to fight. This can be trash-talking about the opponent’s skills or predicting the outcome of the fight. It starts in the interviews months before the actual fight. The goal of this talking is to make an opponent lose the mental strength they have by making them impatient, too aggressive or doubt their skills. If the opponent let emotions take control of the situation, he/she have already given the mental advantage to the other fighter.
For example, Mike Tyson was described as a mentally challenging opponent to face. He had boxing skills to defeat the opponents, but he also mentally challenged his opponents by being the scary person to face and not being afraid of talking about them. Sometimes even interviewers were afraid of him. There is a story of Tyson getting mad and punching the wall of the building minutes before the fight. The opponent heard Tyson’s strong punch and got afraid to even face Tyson. His manager made the man walk to the ring by force. Before the fight usually starts opponents face each other face to face, with an eye for an eye style. At that moment Tyson’s afraid opponent didn’t even look at Tyson and Tyson knew he had him under a mental control and later on won the fight because of that. After one knockout the nerf-cracked opponent didn’t even try to stand up to fight. He just gave up. I think that this is one of the best examples of losing the power of will under the bad self-dialogue. If the opponent would trust his skills and would have the courage, he might have won or at least not given up. In another hand, if Tyson would have told himself that “I hope I will win”, he probably would not be that successful in his fights.
In the article third situation, Football athlete Mikael Forssell used to imagine himself as a child being on the field as thousands of fans cheered as he played, later to make that imagination true. Every athlete, actor, artist, politician some kind of public person does imagine themselves to achieve a better future where they are living their dreams. Everyone has goals they want to reach soon as well as a bigger dream. No matter the size, in theory, we can reach their things. It is about visualizing, preparing, and making moves. For example, as a sports athlete visualizing the moment the person is on the field, the person is practising to be ready for the actual moment. The more a person imagine this same moment step by step, move after another, the more that person is prepared mentally and physically for the moment to happen.
For example, if the person is afraid of doing a presentation in front of a huge audience and that presentation is happening in a month. By writing and preparing the speech and then imagining the moment the person is presenting himself/herself after all of the hard work in front of a terrifying silent crowd, the person is experiencing those emotions that may occur during the actual moment. By doing this experience every day, the person learns to handle the emotions and becomes used to the feeling of speaking alone when everyone is looking. When the moment happens, that person is much more ready to conquer the feeling and the positive result can even surprise the person himself/herself.
So, after all of this given information, it is easier to understand and appreciate the importance of positive self-dialogue. It is simply all in the mind. The mind can be a powerful tool to use to make success happen to the person, but it can also take control of the personal life and affect others at the moment.
When facing a challenge, the individual should be positive towards the challenge and motivate himself/herself to find the solution and push through the obstacles on the way to the goal. The individual may find it useful to find willpower from quotes, pictures, music, or self-made power sentence. It is important to treat ourselves positively the same way we treat others. Not putting anyone down but supporting and motivating. Turn experienced negativity into stronger positivity. Find happiness in the smallest of successes and focus on letting normal emotions come and go, as you focus only on the positive aspects of things.
By reflecting on the learning during the writing of this essay, I remembered our first pajas together as a team of ENTRE 21. In Autumn our dialogue skills were at the beginning of the studies very amateur. It was normal since we were at the beginning of our studies and development as a team. People were just starting to get used to pajas and strong relationships were not built yet. The first weeks of studies pajas were filled mostly with silence and after approximately a month or two people started to talk way more than previously. A multicultural social atmosphere was starting to show. There was one problem. The same few members of the team talked so much after one another, that those who needed more time to think or were still a little bit shy to share their ideas, were being silent and just followed. This cap between loud and silent team members was affecting the quality of dialogue. The more these individuals were louder than another, the more they got their voice and opinion noticed. At the same time, no one heard these shier people from our group. Also, there has been this one taboo going on in the group. People are afraid of criticising others’ ideas and giving honest feedback to each other.
At this moment of the first year, in Spring we had improved our dialogue skills a lot compared to the previous habits. In the last month, we have learned to be more open-minded towards others and give a little bit more space for everyone to share their ideas. By listening more these more silent people, we gather more information to go deeper into the subject as well as find new perspectives. This all improves the whole team’s atmosphere to a more positive direction. We may not have the perfect dialogue since we are just getting to know each other more personal level and the trust is starting to be built, but we are improving so much at this specific moment.
Something to remind everyone reading this essay, treat others equally as well as gather and spread positive information by using open-minded dialogue. Motivate and support yourself the same way, you do to others.
Takamäki, M. 2020. 10 tapaa tuhota dialogi – tai vahvistaa sitä. Read 8.2.2022.
Holm, R. & Poutanen, P & Ståhle, P. 2018. Mikä tekee dialogin: dialogisen vuorovaikutuksen tunnuspiirteet ja edellytykset. Read 7.2.2022.
Nissinen, M. 2018. 11 kikkaa tuhota dialogi. Read 9.2.2022.
Learnwell. N.d. Sisäisen dialogin merkitys – miten puhut itsellesi. Read 10.2.2022.