Streaming Dialogue Guidelines
Dialogue is a conversational practice whose purpose is to help us learn how to think together so that our thoughts, emotions, and resulting actions belong to the group as a whole. In dialogue we go beyond any one individual's understanding to discovering shared meaning by exploring issues from many points of view. It is mindful collective inquiry.
- deeply reflective listening and speaking
- speaking when truly moved
- "suspending" one's assumptions and "noble certainties" by holding them up for examination
- speaking into the group rather than to individuals
- listening in the silence for the shared flow of meaning.
Dialogue can open us to a deeper collective inquiry into our own thinking processes and the nature of thought itself. It can also open us to our own inner wisdom as we inquire together into the heart of what matters to us.
Two Formats for Our Dialogues
To learn more about how groupware can support on-line dialogue, we are exploring two formats in the CIP: Streaming and Branching. Both involve shared listening for the collective voice that is speaking from within all the individual contributions.
Everyone in the CIP is welcome to participate in both formats and has been organized into groups according to their stated intentions and preferences about dialogue activity.
Streaming Dialogue follows a single stream, flow, or conversational thread. Each Thinking/Feeling or Listening is put at the end of the stream. There is no outline.
In Streaming Dialogue, please pay attention to the shared flow of meaning that is emerging, rather than branching off in a new direction. Explore the single stream and where it takes the group.
Sharing Responsibility for the Practice
We all share responsibility for the practice of dialogue. As you participate, please attend to your listening, speaking, and noticing. Here are some suggestions (woven together from a variety of sources):
- Listen empathically, from your heart, without judgment or blame
- Listen without the urge to argue, counter, dissuade, or fix
- Listen with equal respect to everyone, regardless of status or roles
- Listen for each person's special contribution to deeper understanding
- Listen from a place of learning rather than confirmation of current thinking
- Listen to the quality of your own listening
- Listen from the collective, from the community, from the whole
- Speak from your heart, from your experience, from the moment
- Speak when you are truly "moved" rather than to fill the silence
- Ask questions from a place of genuine curiosity, wondering, or not knowing, rather than to make a point
- Speak into the circle, into the whole group, into the stream of shared meaning
- Avoid cross-talk -- acknowledge others by speaking about their contributions but do not address them individually (reason: this avoids excluding others and turning the group into spectators watching a one-on-one interaction)
- When you are silent, indicate your listening presence from time to time in the group -- "Here listening," or "I sit and reflect," or "Simply noticing" or ... (Use the Listening button for this.)
- Move back from conclusions to observations -- notice what you're noticing and what meaning you're making of it
- Pay attention to your judgments, assumptions, and certainties -- hold them lightly, explore and examine them, and consider alternatives that may be just as useful
- Notice the metaphors and images in your own thinking and speaking
- Be present to what's happening inside you as well as in the group
- Be involved while being detached -- open to outcomes but not attached to specific outcomes
- Allow for pauses and silence -- reflection has its own rhythms
- Look for deeper levels of understanding
Timing and Flow of Our Dialogues
Dialogue takes time to develop and deepen. It takes sustained and consistent practice to move out of more habitual ways of thinking, speaking, and listening. It also takes presence, intention, energy, and attention.
Dialogue often goes through phases where the energy ebbs and then flows again. At times you may feel energized, inspired, touched, confused, bored, uncomfortable silent, satisfied, and more. Notice all that and bring it into the group. It's all part of the shared field. Please stay with the process and inquire what may be learned from it, rather than dropping out.
Many face-to-face dialogue groups meet regularly for weeks or months or longer. Some on-line dialogue groups have met for a minimum of six months with a weekly commitment to check in and be present.
In the CIP, our Dialogue groups will meet for at least eight weeks, beginning August 12. If any group wants to continue longer, you're welcome to do so.
Resources for Our Dialogues
Please see Instructions for Streaming Dialogue for details about how the software works in each format.
These active CIP members have experience in the practice of dialogue, some face to face and some on line. We've invited them to bring the qualities and flavors of their own dialogue practice into each group, while also remembering that we all share responsibility for the depth and richness of our collective conversation.
Greg Kramer has kindly e-mailed his paper co-authored with Terri O'Fallon, "Learning From Online Dialogue," to everyone in the CIP.
Krishnamurti's wonderful "Listen..." and Bill Isaacs' article, "Dialogue: The Power of Collective Thinking," from The Systems Thinker are included in the print CIP Readingsyou received. Isaacs' piece includes some examples of dialogue in organizational settings.
There is more on dialogue in Practice of Dialogue and One Comparison of Dialogue and Debate.
Please see also Dialogue Design Commentary for more on our groupware design assumptions and choices.
From the 1996 Awakening Technology Community of Inquiry and Practice (CIP)
Content and Groupware Design © 1996 Awakening Technology.
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From www.awakentech.com on 05/25/2018 ---- item last modified on 05/31/1997.