The word dialogue comes from the Greek dia, which means through, and logos, which means word or language. A dialogue thus means language flowing through people. It is a joint effort aimed at eliciting meaning by questioning and probing each other, making assumptions and prejudices explicit, becoming aware of unconscious biases, going beyond judgments, never attacking or insulting but always searching for deeper understanding and insight.
A dialogue is different from a discussion or a debate. First, because you don’t have to win, convince anyone that you are right or outargue the other. Second, because the process of joint exploration is as important as the result of greater wisdom. The process involves listening with a willingness to understand, exploring new ideas and perspectives with open curiosity, and revealing unexamined assumptions, prejudices and biases, all this while bringing yourself fully into the process.
A good dialogue delivers tremendous benefits. Participants can gain a depth of wisdom by thinking together that they would never accomplish on their own. They leave the transactional mode of the working day behind them and engage into a process that can be transformational. New perspectives and insights can be gained, outdated views can rest in peace, new levels of creativity stimulated, and bonds of community strengthened. A good dialogue makes you feel wiser, connected and energized.