The Dream Dialogue
Contrary to prior belief that dialogue only consists of two aspects (listening and speaking), recent theories have suggested otherwise. These theories suggest that dialogue rather consists of four main aspects: Listening, Suspending, Respecting and Voicing. These aspects are followed by many underlying features that will be focused on during this essay, to create a better understanding (especially cross cultural) between one another, ensuring less misunderstandings and miscommunications to occur in the future.
First, looking at a few things that often go wrong in dialogues between team members, Paul Schoemaker, Senior Fellow and Former Research Director of Wharton’s Mack Institute, argues that there are 5 types of “dialogue deficits”. These “deficits” can cause inefficient communication between team members. The first and probably biggest deficit that we face in dialogue, is when team members actively avoid one another or avoid conversation between each other, showing a lack of interest in one another’s lives, which most likely creates underlying tension between individuals, causing a ripple effect towards the whole team. The next deficit is caused by past interactions being unsuccessful, creating a barrier (of a variety of things) between individuals or smaller groups. The third deficit is one that happens gradually, over time, when team members start losing trust and respect in each other and start focusing more on how different they are instead of the things they have in common. Deficit number four comes into existence when debates are happening without either party trying to compromise or even see things from a different viewpoint. Both parties in this case are too fixated on their own opinions to consider what the other one has to bring to the table. Last but not least, a dialogue deficit can occur when minimum information is being shared between the parties involved. This results in misunderstandings, little to no openness between members, defensiveness and inconsistent meetings. [Paul Schoemaker, March 2015, 7 Ways to Improve Your Team’s Communication | Inc.com]
These commonly known dialogue deficits can, in many cases, be the killers of good dialogue and to find ways to improve our dialogue skills, we must first look at the importance of dialogue. Dialogue is a crucial factor to consider in a team’s dynamics. Without good dialogue, a team cannot succeed in the same way it would with efficient dialogue. Dialogue is more than conversation, it includes silence, body language, tone of voice and much more. Constructive feedback and compliments are both part of a healthy dialogue and to form a good balance between these aspects, both should be treated with the same seriousness and professionality.
Elements of a successful dialogue:
According to the famous Forbes article (“The Importance of Open Dialogue With Your Team”) there are a few key factors to remember when a dialogue is occurring. Starting with acknowledging and coming to terms with the fact that you can be wrong sometimes, is one of the first eye-opening factors in a successful dialogue. To create this thought pattern of “I am not always right” often lead to improved team dialogue, because now the person is forced to consider another’s viewpoint and opinion and they are not fully fixated on their own. This thought pattern is useful even in times where the other person’s opinion was correct, because it still allowed some space for the other person’s opinion to be truly heard and considered and chances are big for there to be at least some tiny flaw in each opinion. The other benefit that this new pattern brings, is it creates humility amongst team members, especially for leaders.
The next factor to consider in this article written by the well-known Tori Utley, is the variety of thoughts that need to be implemented into dialogue. Every team (especially a multicultural one such as ours) has big diversity in almost every aspect, ranging from experiences to strengths. In order to use this diversity to the team’s advantage, it is necessary to acknowledge them, explore them in their own unfamiliarity, challengingness and confusion. It is impossible to start a team enterprise alone and that’s the reason why the business plan should not be created alone. Therefore, it is recommended to use the team’s excellence when creating this business plan, even though this often requires diving deeper into direct and open discussions.
Vulnerability creates the team’s culture. Being open about things, in this case especially business-related things, is a modern-day method that is getting more popular amongst the business world as we speak. It is not always something that is popular in start-ups, but it creates value to each and every team member, promoting a feeling of trust, openness, honesty and loyalty. [Tori Utley, 2017, The Importance Of Open Dialogue With Your Team (forbes.com)]
The importance of body language in dialogue:
As explained earlier, dialogue is about more than talking and listening, one of the interesting aspects of dialogue is body language, because this is the one aspect that cannot lie. The body cannot always hide reactions. It has three main usages in a dialogue: “it can serve as a conscious replacement for speech, it can reinforce speech, or it can be a mirror or betrayer of one’s mood”. The outer appearance of the body can also tell much more about the person that one would imagine. For example: Someone who has tidy, sleek, and styled hair, might portray subconsciously that they care about their appearances and how they are being observed by others. Another interesting fact is that our facial expressions portray our emotions. Studies have shown that in the cases of a normal athlete winning a race and a blind athlete winning a race, smiles appeared on both their faces to imply joy and victory. Eye contact is the next big aspect that the body carries in a dialogue. There is a fine line between maintaining too much eye contact and maintaining just the right amount to show that enough attention is being paid to a conversation. Tiny, but remarkable things like the number of times a person blinks during a conversation can determine their level of nervousness or excitement. Public speaking, lying, or proposing are examples of situations that can cause a person to blink more than they normally would. Then, there is also a difference in upper body language versus lower body language. Things like how a person’s head is tilted, how posture is maintained and purposely avoiding eye contact are all things that imply different reactions and emotions towards a situation. Another interesting fact is that in many different cultures, the usage of thumbs and hand signals in general, can have complete opposite meanings. The upper body is most reliable when referring to a person’s mood and personality, where the lower body is telling more about “in-the-moment” emotions like anxiety, relaxation, etc. A person’s confidence can be determined by the way the walk as another example. All these bodily aspects are important keys to remember when having a dialogue with a person or a teammate, they can tell more than one would originally think. [Udemy Edion, 2014, Body Language Facts: How We Communicate Without Words – Udemy Blog]
Even though proper dialogue can feel difficult or even impossible at times, especially in diverse teams, it is still of utter importance to create successful communication and dialogue by considering aspects surrounding it and applying dialogue tools, in one’s everyday life, that are accessible all around.
- Schoemaker. 2015. Website. Read on 04.02.2022. Link 7 Ways to Improve Your Team’s Communication | Inc.com]
T.Utley. 2017. Forbes Website. Read on 05.02.2022. Link The Importance Of Open Dialogue With Your Team (forbes.com)]
- Edion. 2014. Website. Read on 05.02.2022. Link Body Language Facts: How We Communicate Without Words – Udemy Blog]