Was that a successful dialogue?

Dialogue is essentially the flow of meaning. If that’s the definition, what’s the standard that a dialogue should meet to be called successful?

Since dialogue is about establishing meaning, there is no one winner or loser.

The purpose of a dialogue is certainly not to win over someone, sell your point, or change someone’s thinking immediately.

Unlike a conversation or a chat, dialogue is not an event. It’s a journey.

Consider this case:

I was coaching a leader who wanted to change some behaviors in her team. She has given some feedback in the past but doesn’t see any significant change.

She is now considering establishing a dialogue with the team to understand the cause of this behavior to address underlying issues and hopefully create a change.

She understands that dialogue is not agenda-driven, it is outcome-driven. When there is no agenda, it is difficult to evaluate if she has achieved any success in the dialogue journey.

Here is the key: The only indicator of success in a dialogue is a “forward shift”

Dialogue is meant to create connection and direction. As long as dialogue provides an opportunity to connect and results in a forward shift, it is a successful dialogue.

In this case, a forward shift can mean any of the following:

  • The team recognizes the behaviors that are not serving them
  • The team is willing to discuss the behaviors openly
  • The team is sharing the reasons behind those behaviors
  • The team asks questions to understand the leader’s issues with the behavior
  • The team agreed to continue the dialogue to dig deeper.

And any more no. of possibilities…every step forward is a success of dialogue.

Naturally, failure to move forward is a failed dialogue. What could that look like?

  • The team refused to engage in the conversation
  • The leader creates a hostile/unsafe environment where everyone just shuts off
  • The team and leader end up entering into an endless blame game.
  • The leader loses their calm and threatens the team to make changes.

We confuse dialogue success with the success of an individual party. But true dialogue doesn’t divide, it connects and helps people move forward.

If you are stuck in a dialogue, find a way to create a “forward shift” and take that win!

Our world of work today needs managers and leaders who go beyond speaking and listening and can intentionally create spaces where collaboration happens through dialogue.

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Hi, Thank you for visiting Third Loop Learning. Download the 10 Ways to navigate difficult conversations with the "Power of Dialogue".
Hi, Thank you for visiting Third Loop Learning. Download the 10 Ways to navigate difficult conversations with the "Power of Dialogue".