Using the Diversity, Difference, and Dialogue Process, as a Communication Tool Amongst Diverse Groups of People
What is the Diversity, Difference, and Dialogue Process?
The Diversity, Difference, and Dialogue Process, is a facilitated process to bring people together across differences. Dialogue in the purest sense is not a conversation, not is it an exercise in active listening, just repeating back, or reframing what the other person says. The Diversity, Difference, and Dialogue Process, uses reflective listening instead, until each person has shared his or her experience, feelings, and thoughts. At that time, we ask each other questions for clarification, and can use active listening or other agreed upon listening skills.
This is the way for people to listen to understand, to have an opportunity to share their perspective, and to get into other people’s heads, and view the world through someone else’s eyes.
It is a way of bringing people together in an organization, community, or anywhere that there is a need for cooperation, collaboration, and communication.
Whether its bringing marketing, together with research, people from different generations, men with women, LGBT with heterosexual, Jews, Christians, Muslims with atheists, almost any barrier that separate people can be broken and better working relationships can be developed. Unlike other dialogue processes, where organizations wait for a problem to arise, and tensions to increase, or become an “urgent conversation,” the Diversity, Difference, and Dialogue Process, doesn’t have to be difficult. People can even laugh, and have fun.
Too often dialogue processes don’t take into consideration the cultures and experiences of the people engaged in dialogue, and the process is stagnant, and facilitated from only one cultural lens. We believe our process takes the whole person into account, and ensures that people listen to each other as peers.
Anyone can be part of this process, and benefit from the experience. In addition, because the process is initially facilitated, the environment feels safe for people to ask questions without fear of retribution.
There are still conflicts in the workplace and in our society that interfere with the ability of people to work together. It is still too common for people to seem to be congregating only by a demographic group, and there is a sense that people are walking on eggshells around each other. There are still people who say that their skills and talents are not appreciated and that they have more to contribute to help the organization be more successful.
All the work you have done has made your organization a better place to work, but your efforts cannot stop there. Now that you have diversity in your organization, your task is to create an environment where people can do their best work and be more successful. This means engaging your organization in Inclusive Diversity Dialogues that will promote productive communication, build trust, and encourage people to ask for help, share resources, and listen to each other.
You might say, “Haven’t we done enough? What is so hard about talking with each other?’
Yet when it comes to talking across difference, this can be extremely challenging. Many people in these situations, spend more time countering what other people say, rather than try to understand why another person sees things in a different way, or may solve problems in a different way. Most have not learned how to listen with empathy from another perspective, and how to speak so they will be heard—which is what the Diversity, Difference, and Dialogue Process is all about.
Beginning a dialogue process is more than just having people in a room discussing a controversial topic. The purpose of a real Diversity, Difference, and Dialogue Process is to help people who are different from each other in any dimension of diversity, discover commonalities while discussing their different experiences.
When people discover what they have in common with each other, they have a basis to work together and they are more able to appreciate their differences, learn from each other and are more willing to work together toward common goals. This benefits the organization, the team, and each individual. People are more able to contribute to an increase in performance, productivity and profit.
Beginning a Dialogue Process
- – Determine interest, are there people who are serious about participation
- – Get representation from different viewpoints and experiences. Do people really want to dialogue, or do they just want a platform to preach?
- – Decide if it will be an on-going dialogue group, finite length or one time
- – Will it be closed for continuity and building relationships or will it be open for people to join and leave?
- – Determine how long each session will last 6- Find a place to meet that feels comfortable to everyone
- – Decide who will facilitate – outside facilitator, members who rotate the responsibility, or two people from group who co-facilitate?
- – Most groups start with an outside facilitator who will ensure that everyone participates and that the group stays in dialogue rather than get into debate, or general discussion
- – Agree on ground rules:
- Listen to understand
- Honestly be open to other experiences and points of view
- Identify the obstacles to seeing other perspectives
- Getting through the obstacles
- One person speaks at a time with no cross talk, or personal attacks
- Everyone needs to be open to examine old beliefs and assumptions
- Each person can only speak from their own experiences, always use I statements
- – Identify appropriate and inappropriate behavior
- – Talk to people from other successful dialogue groups to learn from their experiences about what worked and what didn’t
- – People begin the first session by talking about themselves and their own experiences, and then start moving into specific topics or issues
- – Seek commonalities in order to respectfully address differences.
Diversity, Difference & Dialogue Process and Preparation
Dialogue Agreements- before the process begins, the facilitator, and group will create agreements on how to interact with each other.
- Be open to other viewpoints besides your own
- Begin with a neutral mind • One person speaks at a time
- No interrupting
- Allow for a brief pause after the other person is done before you start to speak
- Speak from your own thoughts and feelings, rather than respond directly or react to what the other person says. This is why active listening is not always appropriate. We use reflective listening instead, until each person has shared their experience.
- Try to put yourself in the other person’s head
- Do not attempt to speak for a group. You can only speak from your own perspective and experience.
- Stay focused on the topic, rather than trying to prematurely seek agreement or get distracted.
- Every participant has a responsibility to keep the dialogue on topic, even if it is a difficult subject
- Mutually agree when it is time for questions
- Questions are to learn and not to show how much you know, or denigrate the other person.
- People are speaking from their own perception. Avoid the temptation to make them wrong
- End with a summary of what was said, and decide if you need to set up another dialogue