I propose that dialogue is a transformative process of communication that changes participants and allows for a collective transformation, something new to emerge. Individuals and groups search together for new states of wholeness through dialogic engagement.

Isaacs points out this system of interpenetrating transformation, transformation which changes individuals and groups together, when he says: “Dialogue not only raises the level of shared thinking, it impacts how people act, and in particular, how they act together” (1999a, p22). Further that: “Dialogue urges us to take this capability [of being conscious in the moment] one step further. Its aim is to engage us, jointly and severally, in a collective present-tense inquiry, present-tense truth telling, where no one person’s position or thought dominates, but where larger questions and new frontiers are laid bare for exploration” (1999a, p. 399). And, that dialogue is a process which is transformative to both individuals and other when he says: “I enter into dialogue with myself, as I do so, I enter into one with you as well” (1999a, p. 403). Isaacs suggests a function of metalogue that is beyond and in addition to dialogue as participants “being together in a new way” and “being the meaning while speaking it” (1999a, p. 401).

Indeed, because I am explicitly connecting the notion of an enabling dialogical space with the space in which transformative ritual in enacted, Webster suggests how “there is a way to use the power of ritual in an innovative manner to cause change in individual’s lives. Since society is composed of individuals we can be assured that as individual’s values are changed so will society’s” (1993). Bohm suggests this function of transformation inherent in dialogue when he offers: “I think that when we are able to sustain a dialogue of this sort you will find that there will be a change in the people who are taking part. They themselves would then behave differently, even outside the dialogue” (1996, p18). Dialogue, then, is very similar to a system in that the parts are in a relationship of change while at the same time creating something new, an emergent quality, that could create change in both the immediate system and the larger whole in which the dialogic system participates.

Posted by John Bell on December 10, 2006
Tags: The Fifth Principle of Dialogue

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