Dialogue process guidelines, short list

The Dialogue Process centers around listening—to yourself as well as others. Shared and personal meaning emerges within a group through listening to what is said from a standpoint of inquiry and reflection (Isaacs 1999).  The list to follow presents guidelines briefly with a view to bringing newcomers into the process without lengthy explanation.

  • When you think you have something to say, take a card or put your initials into the chat box [for online dialogues] to add your name to the queue. Then go back to listening.
  • When it comes your turn, pause. If you don’t remember what it was you’d wanted to say or if it’s no longer apt to where the conversation has gone, you can pass.
  • When you take a turn, don’t try to go through all the points you might have noted down. That makes it hard for people after you to see what thread to follow. Keep it to one or two points – you can always take another turn later.
  • In what you say, expose what you are chewing on; it’s not so helpful to you or the dialogue to assert what you have already settled for yourself.
  • If you ask a question that seems to be directly taking up something said by one speaker, offer it to the whole group to consider. Indeed, the specific speaker cannot answer until their next turn and even then may choose to speak of some other concern.
  • Silence is okay. After all, the deepest insights from dialogue process come from listening to you yourself think.
  • Protect the reputation of others in the group and outsiders. That means not disparaging any named or identifiable person or sharing something that would embarrass them or could be used against them. It also means not citing afterwards what a person said. If you have a concern, find terms of your own in which to raise it.
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About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor is a Professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston where he teaches and directs undergraduate and graduate programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society. His research and writing focuses on the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context, incl. Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement (U. Chicago Press, 2005) and Nature-nurture? No (2014, http://bit.ly/NNN2014). On reflective practice, see Taking Yourself Seriously: Processes of Research & Engagement (with J. Szteiter, 2012, http://bit.ly/TYS2012).

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