Imagine you are in a world where people cannot communicate as though every one of them lives on a secluded island. It will be a less civilized world where each person leads a hard life and facing its challenges on his own.
Life is not but a continuous communication between man and God, man and his human brethrens: his family members, his work and college’s colleagues, his neighbors and every person he deals with in the society. Life is also a journey of physical, psychological and spiritual growth.
Dialogue is one of the most important means of communication in our age. It is the intellectual tool for ideas refinement, human communication and life experiences, know one another and converge views. Fruitful dialogue should aim at dissolving difference and misunderstandings between humans. Failure of effective communication is the main factor of leading a miserable life. The more we offer the chance to make an effective dialogue, the more mutual space would we share.
Dialogue helps us to reach partial truth as absolute truth is known only by God. We seek the truth with different means including dialogue.
A fruitful dialogue aiming at achieving common interest is characterized by many criteria and is governed by many rules we should follow:
It should be :
Purposeful, a discussion not an argument, devoid of prejudgment and war of words, based on the common and shared interests.
It should evaluate ideas not people; avoid advising, generalizations and guessing what others meant.
You should follow these rules:
Prioritize, listen carefully and be fully attentive and generous with your time, mixed with humor and brief.
Think of the purpose of dialogue before you start it. All dialogues that have no purpose are time-eaters and have no fruitful results. The prominent writer, Mohamed Hassanein Heikal, says: “Rules and purposes of a dialogue should be determined or the dialogue would be irrelevant and bear no fruit.
2- A discussion not an argument:
Discussion aims at enriching the dialogue while arguments aim at ending the discussion in favor of a specific idea, person or situation. As a result the gap between parts of discussion would be widened. It will turn to, so to speak, ‘a deaf talk’ in which no one listens to the other interlocutors as he is busy with standing for his ideas.
Do not be ambiguous and offer the chance to others to understand your opinions. Ambiguity makes people distant and alert.
Try to know who you are talking to be able to choose the right method to express your ideas clearly. The more you know about them, the bigger the chance you have to be engaged in a constructive dialogue. Dialogue varies according to character of the interlocutors and their views.
Devoid of prejudgments:
A dialogue based on prejudgments is usually doomed to failure in which the speaker knows the results of dialogue beforehand and thus he tries to reach them. Prejudgments are often based on personal experience or a generalization of a result or specific theory that is inapplicable to the dialogue.
Not a war of words:
A dialogue is not a war of words. It does not aim at classifying people into victorious and defeated. When people are engaged in a dialogue, they aim at reaching out to one another not to estrange, alienate and undermine one another.
Some interlocutors try to turn dialogue to a fight in which they try to persuade the other interlocutors of their ideas and prove them wrong using all the methods as he thinks that this is the real meaning of victory.
It should be based on the common and shared interests
Start the dialogue by discussing the common ideas you shared with others thus you turn the dialogue to be deep and purposeful. Keep in mind that people may share differed points of view, yet are not enemies. There is always a point that all people agree on. On effective dialogue, Antony Robins, American writer and public speaker, says, “To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.”
Thus, your role is to search for the common ideas and try to go furthermore. We share different ideas, beliefs and we were even raised up differently. Difference is a merit that leads up to integration thus reaching the best results.
Evaluate ideas not persons
Evaluation should be connected with situations and ideas not persons. When you evaluate an idea, keep yourself distant from judging the person’s character as judging is best way to lose others. Avoid criticizing and embarrassing your speaker. Judge the idea not the person.
People do not take advices easily especially when it is given in public. Advice carries the idea of projecting the mistakes and demerits of others. It also reflects the superiority of the adviser even if his words do not seem to be like that. Thus, you should stay away from taking the position of the adviser, preacher or the teacher during speaking with others lest they hate you.
Owning the truth
One of the most gaps between the speakers is that each one of them thinks that he owns the truth exclusively or that he is the most person who understands the whole situation. Conversations alike are doomed to failure. No one owns the entire truth of a situation and when we communicate in the right way, we will complete each other’s view and reach to see the whole situation.
Avoid generalizations and broad statements that apply to persons or ideas. Generalizations lead to prejudgments, hence widening the circles of disagreement.
Avoid guessing what others meant
If you face ambiguous situations or expressions you do not likely understand; never hesitate to enquire the speaker to explain more. He maybe means something else. Make sure that you understood what he said and repeat it. This would help you to avoid misunderstanding. Do not hasten to judge what you listen; ask a direct question about what your speaker said. It is a hard task that you explain all what in your mind in words.
Prioritize the objectives of your dialogue and avoid tackling the secondary or unimportant details.
A good dialogue is based on good listening. They say some uttering is an art, this turn listening to an art too. Ernest Hemingway said, “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”
A fruitful dialogue needs a good listener as people said that God gives us one mouth and two ears to listen more than we talk. Listening carefully will enable you to deeply understand what the speaker meant and as a result you can express your thoughts accurately and reach to share more mutual interests with him. The more a person is confident the more; he offers his speaker the chance to express his ideas.
Be fully attentive and generous with your time
Offer your respect and appreciation to others in simple gestures during your talk. Keep the eye contact. Do not check time or papers as it gives an impression that you are bored of the conversation.
Mixed with humor
Dell Carnegie once said that one should mix his dialogue with humor and make it natural. Funny words make us happy and help to create rapport of friendship between people. It also helps you to win their attention and love. H.H Pope Shenouda the third was keen on adding humor to his sermons and in his personal encounters with others. It added a feeling of joy and comfort in others’ hearts and encouraged others to participate in the conversation. Thus, do not be so gloomy while taking with others lest they feel you are ignoring them or rejecting their opinions. Remember that a smile is the only language understood by the whole world. It adds a beauty to the speaker and makes the conversation go smooth and devoid of any stress or stiffness.
As the saying goes, we linger the talk when we do not have any interesting thing to say. Stay focused and do not forget to organize your ideas. Do not distract your listener by discussing your ideas at length as it indicates lacking the ability of expression and bore the listener. Learn to choose the right words on the right time. I wish that all of us are engaged in fruitful dialogues.
Head of the Coptic Orthodox Cultural Center