I recently discovered the similarity between two extremely powerful collaborative methods, focused conversation, and dialogue. It’s not a surprising discovery, and obvious to anyone who has studied or used them both. But I was very glad to see the connection, which is not just a connection between these two methods, but a deeper structure that has to be brought to the surface for any collaborative method to work.
The common principle is that a complete (holistic) understanding of any situation needs to be looked at through multiple perspectives; and there are at least three extremely basic ways of thinking that affect any perspective.
Through the lens of a focused conversation, the most basic needed perspectives are:
– Objective (collecting the facts),
– Reflective (understanding feelings),
– Interpretative (deriving meaning), and
– Decisional (taking action).
Through the lens of dialogue, these are:
– Meaning (which combines the concepts of ‘objective’ and ‘interpretive’), and
– Power (action).
The understanding in both systems is that different people, or the same people at different times, tend to think and express themselves using mainly one of these different ways of thinking. When people talk to each other, one-to-one or in groups, people often get confused, frustrated, and angry because the other people are using entirely different ways of thinking to express themselves. From any one person’s perspective, this looks like “You just don’t get it!” or ‘You’re completely ignoring the most important point!”
A collaborative method has to make people aware that there are indeed different ways of looking at any issue, and that all of these ways are necessary in order to come up with a solution that will actually work. This is because only then will a whole picture of the situation be incorporated into the solution; and also because only then can everyone understand and get behind a common solution.
This post continues these thoughts: