Foundations of Dialogue – Vernissage Health

Our capacity to hold space for generative dialogue is perhaps the most cherished, human and transformative capacity we all share. It is arguably at the root of all great transformational processes – from the deeply personal and relational, to community, organizational and societal level change.

Like others in this field, we make a distinction between debate, discussion, communication, and dialogue. This is not about persuasion, information transfer, or ego aggrandizement.

‘Generative’ dialogue in particular refers to the shared capacity to generate new insights and tap into collective wisdom in a way that is only possible in a group when certain conditions are present (we slow down, step out of conventional ‘meeting’ or ‘advice mode’, drop into greater presence, open our minds and hearts, listen compassionately and without judgement, speak from the heart, and notice our own reactivity and responsiveness) .

We discover that we learn more about ourselves and each other than we expected.

Leaders in the field, including Peter Senge, nobel prizing winning David Bohm, Otto Scharmer and others, identify some key ingredients to generative dialogue including:

  • The power of shared intention, consciously held
  • Genuine respect for and curiosity about others
  • The quality of listening and presence that we each bring
  • Giving voice to what’s true for us, in this moment
  • Openness to be changed by the process and yet holding expectations lightly
  • Capacity of each participant to match their ability to be present with others, with a similar capacity to be present with themselves
  • The capacity of dialogue hosts to create and hold space for the possible, and then get out of the way to enable emergence (that balance of setting favourable conditions without micro-managing for outcomes)