Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Dialogue in dispute resolution

Ever noticed how conversations get stuck in that same old rut. You know the one. The one where your boss points out that your billable hours are down this month, or your good wife objects that you never do anything around the house, and just why is it my turn to walk the dog again?

These conversations, and please share your own examples, become almost ritualistic. We know what our responses are going to be, what the counter-response is and so on. We know at the outset where the conversation will escalate and just what the provocation will be. We know how the discussion will end and we know it won't be pretty.

Maybe there'll be tears like last time. Or that silent sulk.

We know just where despair will set in. We'll experience that sense of "Here we go again".

And what a waste. What a waste of our abilities to use our intellect, to use this wonderful tool of language, to choose better responses at each stage of those stuck discussions. Even if we just chose a different response then that would be better.

What if, for example, instead of coming back with the defensive comment we actually reassured our dialogue partner that we are interested in knowing why they feel that way? How have they come to hold that point of view? Or maybe we could even acknowledge that it is a reasonable point of view to have, even though we may not agree with it. That would certainly send the discussion in a different direction to the one we are accustomed to. Who knows then, just what we could achieve out of any of those repetitive arguments.

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