What’s Dialogue Got To Do With It?

My wife and I went to see and hear Phantom of the Opera. We had to wait in the hallway because we arrived early and the seating area was not yet open. There were others there, too. I couldn’t help but noticing an elderly lady standing next to a young lady in her 20s. They looked like they could have been grandmother and granddaughter. I was thinking, what a perfect opportunity to talk, but the whole time, the young lady’s gaze was fixated on her iPhone. The grandmother just stood there saying nothing.

On another occasion, my wife and I were leaving a restaurant and I looked down at a lady, perhaps in her 40s, sitting at a table with a young girl as they waited for their food. The older lady sat staring into space. The younger girl had headphones in her ears listening to something on her iPhone.

There has been a lot of talk in the news about how this technology may be destroying people’s social skills. At first, I was skeptical and brushed such reports off as exaggeration because I, too, love technology. But scenes like these seem to be everywhere. People in situations where they could spend time in rich conversation, sharing their dreams, discussing ideas, getting to know one another, are instead locked into their technological world, oblivious to the physical world around them. Perhaps the alarmists have a point.

I am continuing the theme of my previous two posts which is how teams or groups assimilate new members. In the previous post, I talked about the importance of relationships. I now want to address the importance of dialogue.

Are we becoming a culture that is losing the art of dialogue? The evidence is there that this might be the case. We now have universities closing their doors to speakers who have opinions with which they disagree and students who, instead of fighting ideas they oppose with rational argument and evidence, instead shout mantra-like slogans to drown out the speaker, or worse, they violently destroy the venue. What happened to civil discourse?

My focus for this post, however, is not politics but organizations. One of the key factors for successful assimilation of new members is dialogue.

The word “dialogue” comes from two roots: “dia,” two, and “logos” word or speech. It refers to conversation that runs in two directions. It seems to be something that is occurring evermore rarely in our world.

Should we care? Why is dialogue so important after all? After all, I pay him to do what I say. Why should I be interested in what she thinks?

That line of thinking is fine if all you’re after is compliance. According to David Roskos-Ewoldesen, in his book, Implicit Theories of Persuasion, there are three types of social influence: (1) compliance, (2) internalization, and (3) identification. He says persuasion has not even occurred if all you gain is compliance.

Compliance is getting someone to do what you want him or her to do. Internalization is what you have when someone accepts a new idea as his or her own opinion. Identification is when that person takes ownership of that idea.

With compliance, all you get is baseline conformity. With internalization and identity, you get commitment, the willingness of group members to stay longer if needed, to invest themselves, to create solutions, and to love the organization.

If that is what you want, then dialogue is essential.

Through dialogue, the back and forth flow of communication, the mentor can make explicit the implicit values of the organization, so that the other can understand them. But also, through dialogue, the mentor invites the newcomer to express their values. A skilled mentor can help that individual see how their values fit those of the organization and even how the organization can help them fulfill held values that perhaps they have never expressed. If you can accomplish that, you will have a motivated, energized, committed member of your team.

provides consulting services for churches and organizations. Contact Dr. Waddell today at gregwaddell[at]leadstrategic.com to discuss the needs of your organization.

Credits
Photo by geralt. Photo available at Pixabay under CC0 license. Image modified for size and space.

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