Have you ever been listened to?

Dialogic Communication

While it’s clear that effective communication is essential to any business’ success, the traditional model is dated, and dare I say, up for dialogue (and yes, please note that I did not say debate).
Traditional business or project communication strategy depend on ‘efficient’ skills such as, speech and debate discourse strategies that are based on the ideals of polarization and hierarchy. These dated beliefs place importance on the individual voice, rather than the collective voice—but times are changing, and so to is communication discourse. From hierarchy to network; from transaction to interaction; from disabling to enabling; from debate to dialogue, what is ‘effective communication,’ is maturing. Communication language is becoming softer and more inclusive, illustrative of a dialogic model of communication.
Dialogue is a process of collective exploration. At the heart of this model, hierarchy is dethroned and collaboration is celebrated. It can be said that the goal of dialogic communication is to empower the participants to make their own informed decisions in the pursuit of mutual agreement. It is in fact the inclusive experience of dialogue that converts the communicator.
With a background in communication rhetorical theory, I was awestruck when I first came across the dialogic model utilized in an experiential learning program. Stranger still, this program was set within the greater University institution that prioritizes individualized learning. I thought, I don’t want to have to give my time for others to learn; instead, I want my hard work and efforts to be recognized as such.
I was yet to really learn the power of the collective.
I do my best everyday to live, work, and manage from my powerful experiences with the dialogic model of communication. From which I have built a toolkit based on three, (what I deem necessary) skills: active speaking and active listening, understanding verbal and physical communication, and learning the power in the pause/creating participatory groups.Comm-Barrier

Active Speaking and Active Listening

Active speaking is the engagement of the other(s) in discussion through the use of language; we choose open and inviting language to include, and closed and directive language to alienate. Be aware of the language that you choose, and the motive behind that conscious decision.
Active listening- Have you ever been listened to? I mean really listened to, where the person(s) you are speaking to not only hears you, but also internalizes what you have said, and could repeat it back to you? This is a much different experience than vacant listening, the other person(s) in conversation hears you, but instead of engaging with your words, that individual is preemptively creating his or her response or rebuttle to your comments. I acknowledge that the listener will form an opinion based on their personal biases, however when one actively listens, one is aware of those biases and recognizes them as such.

Verbal and Physical Communication - Are you open to communicate?

What does your body say? Remember that your body language and tone of voice tell others, yes, I’m ready to listen and engage in this conversation; or no, I know best, and I’m not willing to hear what you have to say. The slightest alterations in your demeanor, physical stance, or level and tone of voice can change how others perceive your willingness to communicate. Remember that these cues also translate your intent of communication, be it assertive, informative, and so on. Remember to consider these non-verbal cues from the other(s) in discussion, and do NOT make drastic assumptions; you know better than this!

Power in the pause/creating participatory groups.

What about silence in conversation makes us uncomfortable? Why do we jump to fill that space, instead of allowing ideas and conversation to ebb and flow naturally? Now if only we could allow the scary ‘pause’ to occur and did not speak to fill space, we would in turn, help to create a participatory space.
At the very heart of dialogic discussion is participatory space where all opinions are welcome, and opposing viewpoints are allowed to co-exist in the conversation. Participatory space requires you to learn the power of voice, understand the power of not using your voice- so someone else has space to use their voice, and do not forget the power of the pause.Comm-Barrier-shake
So the next time you find yourself in a group discussion, try to remember these three simple skills:
  1. be aware of how you speak, and how you listen;
  2. consider non-verbal cues, both yours and those of the other(s);
  3. and, allow the very natural conversational pause to occur- you will be surprised by who speaks up!
To be continued… Understanding the power of rhetorical language.
Written by Marissa Lawrence