Communicating Well As a Group

by Siobhan Soraghan

Common questions

  1. What does dialogue do?
  2. Where do you use dialogue?
  3. Is there a process?
  4. How long does it take?
  5. Do you need special skills?

 

1. What does dialogue do?

It enables the sharing of learning, the generation of a rich, deep shared understanding, the formulation of robust decisions and the resolution of complex issues. Going through the process results in greater maturity and respect within the participating group.

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2. Where do you use dialogue?

Dialogue is used best where you have to meet the needs of a variety of stakeholders, where the issues are complex and sensitive, where ownership is not cut and dried and where there may be far-reaching, hard-to-predict consequences. It is not appropriate where there is a specific clearly-defined problem that can be resolved by input from experts with the necessary technical knowledge.

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3. Is there a process?

Yes, but it is not linear. There is a general flow through four key phases, but what happens within each phase will depend greatly on the issues being addressed and the group addressing them.

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4. How long does it take?

It depends. It’s probably safe to say it will take longer than expected, but that the rewards will be considered worth it. It is not a short, sharp, shock approach. It requires participants to commit to putting session time aside regularly for a certain time frame, determined by the nature of the issues, the priority they are given and the urgency of the situation.

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5. Do you need special skills?

Yes and no. The critical skills are those we might all aspire to as mature individuals, managers and leaders, such as the skills of listening and paying attention, of enquiry, keeping an open mind, suspending assumptions, the ability to sit with silence and resist filling it, the ability to be self-aware and articulate that awareness, the ability to notice others, to be able to consider the whole rather than the parts and think systemically, and to follow things through in terms of possible consequences for the wider stakeholder group. Are these skills special? It’s not unusual to have some of these skills. But to have all well developed is rare.

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