On the art of dialogue


Dear Editor,

In our society we have a paradox: on one hand , the prevailing individualism that weakens the development and stability of the links between people, including family ties, and on the other, the presence of the dialogue as a ‘solution’ to all evils in public life. Only that in this case it is used as a tactic to defeat the other.

The Dictionary of the Royal Academy defines the word dialogue as: “Conversation between two or more people, which in turn express their ideas or feelings”; and, in another sense: “Discussion or treatment in search of compromise”. Clearly there is a lack of dialogue, whether between public figures, between parents and children, between teachers and students, or between the administration and citizens.

Let us note some features of this art, which sometimes can be difficult, because of the subjectivity and the defense of self-interest:

a) Cultivate Listening: You listen to understand, because without listening there is  no dialogue: at most,  juxtaposed monologues. Be willing to listen to what the other is saying and as he is saying, ‘what is being said’, ‘how it is being said’, ‘who says it’. Experience shows that we need to exercise the art of listening, which is more than hearing, and that helps us to find the appropriate gesture and word.

b) Clarity in the presentation: Use of reason to expose personal judgment, positive sense to generate closeness with the other; away from any imposition of one’s opinion, and without accepting the imposition of the others.

c) Put yourself in the place of another: In one more step of listening, it is seeing the subject of conversation from the point of view of the other. We often hear with the filter of our own point of view, preparing arguments to refute, without paying due attention to the values behind the arguments. In the disputable issues, the ability to concede to the other person. Thinking differently should not prevent dialogue.

d) Review of the approach itself: Having heard the other, valued its position, be prepared to modify the criteria itself, if it is deserved. Somehow, dialogue is a filter to assess the position and perhaps to reaffirm your own personal criteria: the contributions of others can also be valuable.

e) Humility: In dialogue  it is good to be willing to recognize what has to be corrected, without insisting on the same. It is always difficult to act, coupled with honesty, but it is to provide a clearer view of the reality. The same virtue will clearly defend their own positions when necessary.

f) Truthfulness: It refers to reality. Clear and frank exposition in an atmosphere of mutual trust, knowing that not all opinions are comparable, and that there are truths that we must learn to transmit.

Synonyms of the dialogue are the terms: conversation, talk, chat, exchange, discussion, interview and debate – albeit  each has its own particular nuance: from friendly conversation to a heated discussion. The agreement, compromise or a consensus that can result from the dialogue are the result of the ability of dialoguing, on the strength of arguments and their adjustment to reality. Relativism which suggests that all ideas have equal value, is a mistake to discard; just like ruling out the ‘false consensus’ as practiced in politics.. The critical sense will help navigate this stormy sea.



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