A Conversation between Linda Ellinor and Glenna Gerard 8/15/14
Linda: When considering republishing our book as an e-book, we felt there were three questions of interest to our readers:
1. Why do we want to republish our book as an e-book at this time?
Glenna: We’re both being asked increasingly for copies, and while you can still find them on Amazon as a used book, it’s not as easy as with the digital technology available. So, we can easily publish in a different format and the book becomes more accessible, here in the US and internationally.
Linda: Yes, making the book accessible at a time when the need for Dialogue is even more critical. Challenges are more complex. Dialogue can help people with diverse perspectives talk and work together to find solutions in working with these challenges. By making our book available as an e-book, it will get into the hands of people needing it.
Glenna: We wondered if we needed to update what we wrote in the late 90s. We realized what we wrote was the fundamental skills and theory of Dialogue. From this respect, there really isn’t anything out of date. The book is timeless.
Linda: Yes. I was talking with a colleague who said, “You know, this book will be as relevant in a hundred years.” I wish it wasn’t so relevant, that we humans had already figured out how to easily collaborate and think together in light of the difficult problems we face. I’m thinking of big social issues such as global climate change, poverty, our growing income inequality, wars, etc. These are complex systemic issues. Our world is becoming more polarized around such challenges with people feeling that the world is more divided and fragmented than ever. People are finding it more difficult to talk across their set positions and beliefs. We see it among countries, our families, communities, in our politics, and in organizations. So there couldn’t be anything more relevant than learning how to speak and think together in ways that build listening and respect, strengthen relationships, and help make wise decisions.
Glenna: Yes, to expand this theme, it seems as the world becomes more complex, Bohm’s work becomes more necessary and critical just to help sort things out. It is natural in the face of complex problems that people want to keep things simple. But this desire can also foster rigid positions that keep people divided into fixed camps. When this happens there is a call for us to dig in deeper – getting to the assumption sets behind the rigid positions, which is where Dialogue can help. Unless we can clarify assumptions, we can’t find new solutions, and will continue to simply move the pieces on the game board rather than transforming the game itself.
2. Who is this book for and who will find it useful?
Glenna: Even though our publisher initially insisted on us writing for the business audience, even the title of our book, Dialogue: Rediscover the Transforming Power of Conversation, points to a much wider audience. It speaks to the ability of conversation, entered into with both people participating fully and respecting one another, to create transformation in our relationships and in the way that we think. Though many of the examples in the book are about business; the principles, the skills, guidelines, and the “try-this” activities, can be applied in any context. This is a key reason why it feels like a responsibility to republish the book and make it available: because it is so widely applicable to the challenges we face in relationships, organizations and communities today.
Linda: Yes. Since it’s initial publication in 1998, we’ve seen it used in educational, government, business, and community contexts. Also, currently in the healthcare industry there is a movement for bringing patients into the planning process with their medical team – an arena that has traditionally been hierarchical. The other contexts for Dialogue are all the various ways people are coming together, in circles. I’m participating in an ongoing “Grandmother’s” circle in November, for instance, and I brought Dialogue into a consciousness group that meets weekly in my community. Baby boomers are retiring and searching for ways to connect up with others as they move to new areas. Even if people call it something else, the book that we wrote could help them set-up such groups.
Glenna: Over the last ten years, I have designed a number of programs where the skills of Dialogue were applied to help people build their own sense of self-leadership and to understand how they can align their life purpose to make a difference. To discover how we can talk with each other and live together in a way that brings us joy, and is creative.
Linda: Within the coaching and counseling communities, where we are trying to create safe environments for critical healing, Dialogue has application. In these areas knowing the skills and guidelines can help keep the listening present and the relationship open-ended so healing can occur. It creates communication where people can meet on an equal playing field so people feel heard and respected rather than judged, diagnosed, or analyzed.
3. How could a reader apply these skills to their life and their work?
Glenna: One of the first things that came to mind was my experience with groups in facilitation, training and consultation. Success hinges on changing the way people communicate and think together. And, I’ve learned that biting off too much doesn’t work.
The most effective way to use this book for yourself, to build your own skills as a leader, a coach, a husband, a wife, a community, an organization, is to find the sections that resonate for you. Pick one or two of the “try-this” suggestions. Do some reflection and make a commitment to yourself: “I’m going to practice this skill or guideline for a week, two weeks, three weeks” and then move onto something else. You can say “Okay, I’m going to practice non-judgment for a week,” and see how you enter into and have conversations with people. Even this alone will shift things, hugely. Practice reflecting on your own thinking. Before you enter into a conversation, have an intention to get below the assumptions you are carrying into the conversation and see how that shifts things. These are very specific examples to improve your individual skills and there are other ways that apply in a group setting.
Linda: Yes, you realize that dialogue is based on a whole world-view that is different from the world-view from which we have been socialized. I’m talking about the ‘quantum world view’ as opposed to the ‘Newtonian’. As people practice the skills you just spoke about, they discover how they see things shifts. One example is how Dialogue can help us to hold paradox more easily, so we don’t have to rush into fixed position so quickly.
Another great way to build skill is to find or create a group of people committed to practice Dialogue once every week or month, for a few hours. I live in S. Arizona, in a small artist village. People are looking for ways to explore community issues and to just talk about what’s happening in the economy or government. Dialogue is a great way to do this. It really helps to practice in a group, so create or find that opportunity.
Glenna: I think it’s important to acknowledge that sometimes people read something written for a particular context, like business, and think, “Oh, that was corporate,” or “That doesn’t apply to me or my organization or life.” The suggestion I make is this: When you find something that resonates for you, even if it isn’t your context, think to yourself, “That’s really great! How can this idea be applied in my case?’’ (which might be within your family, or a personal relationship, or in a volunteer situation). As soon as you shift how you are looking, you’ll find the underlying dynamics are the same, and see how you can use the skills to create value in your situation. And, you will have demonstrated a key dialogic skill – shifting perspective to open up thinking.
Linda: Another use, is to ask yourself : “what is not going well in my relationship with so and so?” Take a look at the skill sets that Dialogue offers. Maybe just using ‘suspension of judgment’ and ‘listening’ to the other person before chiming in with your point of view, will open new possibilities and make a difference in the relationship. So yes, I think there are a lot of different entry points.
Glenna: To summarize, Dialogue will help anyone interested in improving their relationships with others, whether in a business, professional, or personal setting. And, Dialogue works to solve complex issues or problems and is a powerful tool for healing, learning, and community building. We hope that you find information in this e-book to help you bring the transformational value of Dialogue into your life and work.