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The 6 Principles of Dialogue

December 19, 2019 by
– the ELP guide to enrich business conversations-


Leadership is exercised by virtue of social interaction; you cannot lead on your own. Talking and listening are amongst the most important things that leaders do. Dialogue is a meaningful and effective tool to combine talking and listening. Participants in a dialogue exchange views and experiences to help each other to become wiser.

A valuable dialogue starts with paying attention to your own attitude, mindset and behavior but is also determined by how you interact with the other participant(s). Applying the following principles will help you to get more out of your business conversations.



  1. Be in the moment

Leave behind what you did today or have to do tomorrow. Forget temporarily about any issues with colleagues, children or spouses. Stop the noise in your mind. This is your personal time and space. Switching off your phone helps.


  1. Express yourself

Share what you care about. Not so much your opinions but more the underlying questions and assumptions. When you share about yourself, others will be inclined to show themselves too and thus the dialogue will be richer.

Drop the corporate shield. Show the human being behind the job title. Speak up especially if you are aware that you are holding back; reluctance is an important sign to pay attention to and if possible go beyond.

Most of us have become quite good in ignoring the elephants in the room. Many topics have become undiscussables and that makes teams less effective. Invite the elephants and discuss the undiscussables. The dialogue will be cleaner, maybe not easier, and the connection between participants will deepen.


  1. Feel your body

Your mind is a beautiful tool but wisdom goes far beyond the mind. “The body is the individual gateway to a remarkable wealth of unexpected information”, David Bohm wrote. Expand your sources of information beyond what is going on in your head. Check what you are feeling in your gut or your muscles. Pay attention to your tensions, excitement, happiness, frustration, fears, etc. They will tell you a lot about what you consider important, even if that hasn’t reached your awareness yet.



  1. Listen

Listen actively and attentively. Not only with your ears, but also with your eyes (body language, facial expressions) and senses. Be with the other in their world. It will make your own perspective richer.


  1. Be curious

Asking questions will help you to get more out of a conversation than sharing the opinions you already have. You will learn what you don’t know yet instead of just sharing what you already know. Especially if you ask open questions that cannot be answered by ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Do not try to convince others of your opinion but try to understand them. Don’t start working on your reply while another participant is speaking. “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”,  Stephen Covey wrote.


  1. Postpone your judgements

Everyone has judgements; it would be superhuman not to have them. Our belief system is the basis of our perception of the world. We only see what we want to see and what we expect is there.

You cannot change your judgements and beliefs overnight, but you can look at them, hold them in front of you and start an investigation into the underlying assumptions or values, ask yourself why you think as you think, get some clarity about your biases. You will be able to learn more from others if you don’t narrow your view of them but approach them with openness.