Goodbye Polarization. Hello Dialogue.

Polarization is the challenge to collaboration today. 

In our shared media feed the extreme views get the most attention.  In contrast to the hype, the majority of us understand and even appreciate divergent views – as long as they are shared in a respectful way.  Respect is the key.  Even socially polarizing topics like gender, race and religion can be navigated productively when both sides are trying to listen.  

Unfortunately, there are precious few public examples of honest dialogue.  Think for a moment.  Where in your media feed do you see genuine expressions of trust, respect, and consideration?  I find that most of the conversations I see are bad examples of true dialogue.  

I’ve sat in meetings where, for fear of a polarized debate, everyone keeps quiet.  I’ve seen bullying and manipulation seize the agenda.  I’ve watched mid-level managers keep their head down to avoid upsetting the C-Suite.  Where in our culture are the role-models of great communication?  How can we reverse the trend of incivility and bring back to the workplace a robust discussion of values and ideas?

I think the key lies in appreciating the 3 parts of good conversations.  

With a nod to Patrick Lencioni, the first key is trust.  Without trust, every meeting is doomed from the start.  Our human need to avoid pain surfaces in meetings as control, critique and silence.  But, when those around the table learn to be vulnerable with each other everything changes.  

The second key is commitment to the common good.  Hidden agendas, self-righteous tirades and exaggerated emotions erase any possibility of engagement.  Where commitment to each other is nurtured, dialogue thrives.  

With trust and commitment as foundations, the final key is clarity.   People need a way to focus and sequence their discussion so that every voice is heard and fully considered.

These three values are difficult to inspire but by understanding the way humans deal with threat and then structuring conversations to eliminate it, we have found a fool proof way to remove the “yeah-but” foolishness of adversarial thinking.

We are creating deeply productive dialogues, by harnessing the strength of Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking HatsTM.   

The parallel thinking  approach of The Six Thinking HatsTM provides a fast, focused, and inclusive method to get everyone’s thoughts to the table.  It does this by creating an efficient distinction between modes of thinking and then sequencing those modes to create a more inclusive and a deeper consideration of the topic at hand. 

As a practioner of de Bono’s methods, it is inspiring to see how his tools always create a mindset and a structure which transforms contentious silences into dialogues.  We’ve found that even without full trust, commitment and clarity, just using his methodology actually builds and reinforces all three of these values.   

If you are tired of wasted time in meetings and/or need to put a stop to polarization and animosity, call us.  We can show you what a difference real dialogue can make in your organization.

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