Meaningful Dialogue

A major part of successful relational leadership depends on open and honest dialogue. Dialogue is central to good relationships at work, as a leader, as a coach and as a mentor. Dialogue is described as the flow of meaning between human beings as they interact. Leaders who learn to improve the process of open and honest dialogue can develop better leader-follower relationships.

Learning to deeply listen to others view points with respect is something worth practising. Mutual respect in dialogue can help enormously to build shared meaning and improve understanding, tolerance and relationships.

Elizabeth Lesser, in her highly amusing and interesting TEDTalk says to Take “the Other” out to lunch. In her example she talks of going to lunch with a conservative tea party member, someone who, from her perspective, was from “the Other” side. Ground rules for the lunch were – 1. do not attempt to persuade, 2. Do not defend or interrupt.  Elizabeth advises us to become a proud “I don’t know it all” and warns against our growing “Otherising tendencies”.

By going to lunch with “the Other”, and following these ground rules you can start to engage in meaningful dialogue. Your objective is no longer to bring the other person onside, but instead to get to know the person beyond the stereotype you may have of them.

Our takeout from Elizabeth’s example – meaningful dialogue between leaders and followers starts when you actively listen.

Learning and developing your relationship skills with someone who you consider to be “the Other” is a good starting point. However, these same conversation rules and dialogue skills can be used in many other situations with all different kinds of people.

Have a safe and happy festive season and we look forward to more dialogue with you in 2016.


Paul Taylor