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Dialogue Values - A discussion
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Karlita

Joined: 08 Jul 2005
Posts: 58

PostPosted: Sat Jul 16, 2005 11:41 am?? ?Post subject: Dialogue Values - A discussion Reply with quote??? ???

Dialogue Values

Lively discussion that occured on the main NCDD discussion list on the value of dialogue, and various different approaches to its facilitation. The discussion arose from the original post 'Slash and Burn Politics, Polarization, NCDD, and after Nov. 3', posted by Jim Snow on March 16th, 2005.

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Jim Snow:

I will miss the NCDD conference ?€?” my loss, and, I am confident, the conference will emphatically be your gain. I sent the e-mail below the separator line to the George Mason University campus newspaper ?€?” it provides part of the context for my comments, essentially about the cancellation of a proposed visit by Michael Moore to the GMU campus on Oct. 28. This news was picked up by the Washington Post the day after the decision was made.

So what's the connection with NCDD? I have very strong views on the current election campaign, the content and, most especially, a process that has been documented and which I see being played out ?€?” attack, attack, attack; rumor ?€?” "my opponent is an enemy, an evil enemy; don't just beat him or her, destroy these enemies personally if possible" - deceptions, misleading statements, whisper campaigns, outright falsehoods are legitimate tools - "on message" with laser-like simplistic dissimulation and avoidance of larger truths and values - wedge issue after wedge issue, supposedly to "energize" but really to divide in order to peel off voters so as to win, win no matter what the cost, a scorched earth policy that, to me, threatens the foundations of whatever democracy we've built. Some (or all) of you may consider this intemperate language; I think it understates our political discourse (and can suggest references).

So, again, what's the connection? As I say below, on Nov. 3 (barring any Florida-type recount) we will see a lot of very angry, disaffected, dispirited people no matter who wins the election. You will be in the NCDD conference during the last few days of the election campaign ?€?” we are (I would daresay always) affected by the larger surround, and in some way I hope you will deal with the relationship of NCDD (and your own worlds and practices, not just in the U.S.) to this larger surround. Values espoused within the dialogue community are what I think is desperately needed ?€?” the "third way" in place of polarized and polarizing discourse and constituencies ?€?” and part of our difficulty is in being "nice" or "neutral" and "inclusive" and "inviting" with others who want to exclude us. Thinking, strategizing, supporting each other is critical at this very pivotal moment in U.S. and world history ?€?” even with all of our overcommitted workloads.

Thoughts? Reactions?

Jim Snow

------------------------------------
Proposed editorial for the Broadside

Thursday (9/31) I learned that the proposed Michael Moore visit to GMU in late October was cancelled. The reason, as I understood it, was that Dr. Merten [GMU president] received "hundreds" of e-mails condemning or denouncing the visit. The stimulus for these e-mails (or at least a prominent one) was from a letter from Richard Black, from the 32nd District, in the Virginia House of Delegates. Col. Black (ret.) posted his letter on a website (www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1229631/posts). The letter had implicit threats (as I read it) of negative financial repercussions for GMU. The letter was picked up by a number of conservatives (their language and thoughts in their exchanges were, in my terms, hardly careful or thoughtful - I am struggling not to respond in kind, but suggest that readers judge for themselves), and someone found and posted Dr. Merten's e-mail address, and the bombardment followed.

The Moore visit had not been publicized, so students, though hearing rumors, could not respond; ditto, as I understand it, the Faculty Senate. There was no countervailing voice in the abbreviated time available, only silence. Whether that would have made a difference or not I don't know. I also know that a group of faculty had gotten together to try to plan genuinely educational and bipartisan events around Moore's visit. I have also been told that the Student Government wanted to use the event to promote and/or provoke discussion/debate/dialogue around the important issues of the election.

I believe that whether Moore should come or not, whether his visit should be funded or not, are legitimate topics for discussion and debate within GMU. BUT ...and this is a MAJOR BUT ... I object in the most strenuous terms to the concerted efforts of a particular group to even keep these ideas from being surfaced, of silencing debate, of marginalizing genuine patriots (as well as "Patriots") who differ. For me, these tactics eviscerate the very notion of "democracy" that we say we uphold (and are attempting to export to other parts of the world).

Per this morning's Washington Post (Friday, Oct. 1), Moore has offered to come to GMU anyway ?€?” under what auspices is not clear. Under any circumstance, I hope that there will be efforts to capitalize on these events, to raise it to a public forum before the election, and I would hope this would provide a major stimulus for participation in our country's democracy as well as protest against silencing anyone.

Given the levels of attack, distortion, and divisiveness in the campaign thus far, of which I see Moore's cancellation as a small part, I believe that whoever wins ?€?” Bush or Kerry - there will be the follow-on, i.e., those who lose will be angry and disaffected citizens and, we should not forget, also patriots ... and ... NEITHER SIDE CAN ERASE THE OTHER. How do we begin to build a third way NOW, and especially on Nov. 3, and begin to model the democracy we say we espouse, even in microcosm at GMU?

Jim Snow
Extended Studies Student

--

Rex Barger:

Jim Snow, I (Rex Barger) think you did good! We can't keep people from being arrogant, but we sure can (& should) express our objections whenever their arrogance rears its ugly head! It is also well to point out my (our?) belief that democracy can't function amongst people whose arrogance keeps them from respecting those who disagree with them. Reality has taught me that a healthy democracy NEEDS diversity of viewpoints & opinions. We need to learn to welcome disagreements as opportunities to learn from each other [by practicing two of the basic principles of Unesco's Manifesto 2000: Respect all life & Listen to understand!].

Sometimes events (like the cancelling of Michael Moore) can be turned into genuine campus-wide learning situations. I certainly hope that someone at GMU can do that!

I believe that every predicament produces plenty of possibilities for peace!!!!

Let's PEACE our world! Together! Peace by peace!

Rex Barger, Hamiton, Ontario

Rexxx Reflectx: Reality Sings!
Mundane Matters that Matter & things!
Responses to Rex are best sent to


--

MaryBeth Merritt:

Dear Jim,

I wonder if it is possible to be inclusive without the "nice" label. Perhaps it is a way to view things, and as a woman I can relate to this "being nice" idea as it is typically a cherished trait for girls and women.The power of dialogue, and the power of a relational (feminine) approach needs to be claimed and used to make a balanced world. I have tried locally to get "opposing sides" individuals to come together and talk and I am not so sure people want to do that as a rule. Many of us want to hold our opinion about things, especially if changing our minds or even understanding the "other's" point of view might entail us changing how we live. I will not be attending the D&D conference, but I do hope that conflict arises there so that we can can learn to work with it better and understand the discomfort of letting go of our positions. My heart is bleeding with how the world is going right now. I don't really know anymore what the "right way" is. My instinctive approach is to be anti-war, anti Bush and I deplore the campaign rhetoric and dis-honesty. Yet, I know, that somewhere else, probably in the "other side" there lies some truth too. So now I am motivated to offer a space for dialogue in my community about current politics and at least give people a chance to try to listen to each other.

I have been offering community dialogue since last spring twice a month and there has been a very small, but steady response, but typically we don't get to a level of conflict. Just learning to listen deeply to each other, even in concordance, seems like a challenge, and to speak authentically. I'm afraid I like to dwell in the ideals of dialogue and the reality is what is desperately needed. To clarify myself, I mean ideals as this sort of "we will change the world with dialogue" (which I think can eventually be true, probably not in my life time), where everyone listens, differing views are encouraged. But does it get to the level of a shift somewhere, in each of us? That's the reality that is needed. At the last conference, it was like here we all are, in love with each other and this thing called dialogue. I was--enchanted, excited. The one place that i felt a strong reaction and disagreement was in the demonstration of a certain approach, that did engender some feelings in the group and guess what, many of us left muttering, we never got into the meat of it to gain the kind of understanding that could produce"peace" or acceptance and there was defensive posturing and I abdicated my responsibility to address what was going on--probably in the interest of time and being fearful of , here we are again, not being nice. HA! So, not being a participant this year I can only hope that schedules don't take precedence over process and that risks are taken in the interest of real learning and growth. I find myself wanting to smooth out any ruffles this statement might cause and have to restrain myself. My apology is that I will not be there to walk my talk.


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Karlita

Joined: 08 Jul 2005
Posts: 58

PostPosted: Sat Jul 16, 2005 12:20 pm?? ?Post subject: Dialogue Values - Cont. Reply with quote??? ???

Dialogue Values - Continued

Rosa Zubizarreta:

Dear MaryBeth,

I was wondering about the session you referred to in your e-mail, where you mentioned there was "strong reaction and disagreement in the demonstration of a certain approach" at the last conference...

Specifically, i was wondering if you were referring to the session on the Wisdom Council and the Citizen's Amendment that Jim Rough offered, since i was there and i know that several people "left muttering"...

one of the reasons i'm asking, is because I don't think it's ever too late to 'learn from conflict'!

Another reasons is, I've personally found that Jim's Dynamic Facilitation approach can actually be a VERY helpful tool for dealing with conflict in creative and constructive ways... however IMO that approach was NOT modeled very well in that session for a variety of reasons...

For one thing, it seemed that Jim saw that session as more of a lecture and a platform to present some of the ideas that he feels particularly strongly about, rather than as an experiential dialogue designed to model a particular 'facilitation approach'... and as a result, he ended up being more of a participant in the 'conflict' than a facilitator...

By contrast, in a different session (the experiential one that Deanna and I offered on Dynamic Facilitation) my sense is that participants really DID have the opportunity to share widely different perspectives on the topic at hand (which happened to be the War on Iraq), that conflict was neither avoided nor side-stepped, and, that participants felt this approach to dialogue had been valuable... (of course i am speaking here as one of the facilitators, so my perceptions are not unbiased!

Anyway, you may or may not have been referring to Jim's session; I do know that there were some 'mutterings' about some of the other sessions, as well...

And, in any case, I want to echo your hopes that this year, there will be more opportunities for some of the 'conflicts' that come up, to be processed 'in situ', and for 'risks to be taken in the interest of real learning and growth'...

I do know that there has been a team of people who have been working hard to prepare for this, and I really appreciate their efforts...

with all best wishes,

Rosa


Rosa Zubizarreta, M.A.
Facilitating Creative Collaboration:
Organization Development * Community Engagement

--

MaryBeth Merritt:

Dear Rosa,

Yes, the session you referred to was the one. You are right it is never too late to learn.

peace, MB

--

Rosa Zubizarreta:

Dear Jim and MaryBeth,

What I am reading in your posts is pointing to the basic challenge facing our field at the moment. We see all around us the harmful effects of "polarized and polarizing discourse", as Jim Snow points out...

Yet as MaryBeth seems to be saying, if we ask ourselves to always stay in the "nice" zone, then it becomes too easy to avoid the conflict posed by ideas that are truly different than ours...

My own experience suggests that what is needed, are approaches that welcome people as they are... with all of their passionate beliefs, strongly held positions, deep-seated assumptions...

AND, AT THE SAME TIME, create a container where listening can naturally take place...

This is not as difficult as it sounds... it is the essence of the "third-party listening" that takes place in many forms of family therapy. Each person in a polarized situation gets the opportunity to vent by addressing the therapist or "designated listener"... and everyone else is thereby much more able to take in positions different than their own, since they are allowed to "overhear" one another instead of receiving the "emotional blast" directly...

The good news is, the ability to do this deep listening work, to hold this kind of listening space for a group, is part of our evolutionary heritage; we DO NOT NEED TO BECOME THERAPISTS in order to learn to do this... most indigenous cultures have naturally evolved community reconciliation practices where the elders of this tribe perform exactly this kind of role; for example, the Hawaiian h'oo p'ono p'ono practice...

The obstacles, as I see them, are more along the lines of our cultural fears around 'strong facilitation'... it resembles 'leadership' too much for many people's tastes;

So instead of realizing that we can all learn to take turns being 'strong facilitators', we tend to, as a community, shy away from practices that call for 'strong facilitation'... much to our detriment.

Instead of seeing 'all leadership as bad', and attempting to 'do away with it altogether' in the name of egalitarianism, which only tends to land us in dysfunctional messes (Ken Wilbur would call this an example of the 'green meme'); we need to empower ourselves by finding ways to redefine and share leadership...

and one way to do so, is to re-examine the value of what i am calling here 'strong facilitation'...

with all best wishes,

Rosa

--

Judy O'Brien:

Rosa, you make several comments about facilitation using pronouns like "our" and "we". It would be helpful to me, if you could restate your feelings about "strong facilitation" using "I" statements. Then, I will be better able to look at my own assumptions about what you are saying.

I, too, was in the "Dynamic Facilitation" presentation at the last conference, and as I recall, direct and specific comments were made in the session, to the facilitator, regarding her being in the way both physically and metaphorically of the group's process. In my view, she was not an exemplar of "good" dialogue facilitation. I can't speak to "strong facilitation", because I'm not sure what your assumptions are relative thereto. But I am curious about your view, since my journey on the path of training facilitators in dialogue has been fraught with slippery slopes, and this is an ever evolving subject for me.

Judy O'Brien

--

Rosa Zubizarreta:

Hi Judy!

thank you for your response...

I am very interested in hearing more about your experiences and learnings with regard to training facilitators in dialogue... and would be happy to offer some clarifications of what i wrote in my posts...

However, i am not sure which of two "Dynamic Facilitation" presentations you are referring to, when you say that "I, too, was in the "Dynamic Facilitation" presentation at the last conference"...

Are you speaking about the one that was just about DF, where the topic our group dialogue was on the War on Iraq, OR, the one that was on DF, the Wisdom Council, and the Citizen's Amendment? The two sessions were quite different, so my perspective on each of them would be very different also.

With regard to your request that I re-write my feelings taking out all "our" and "we" statements... i'm not sure which of the two posts I wrote you are referring to (maybe both?) .. I'd be happy to rewrite any particular sentences or paragraphs you may want to point to...

with all best wishes,

Rosa

--

Judy O'Brien:

Rosa,

Thanks for your patience and consideration of my questions. I believe I attended the session on the Wisdom Council and Citizen's Amendment. I would love to hear your perspective on whether that facilitation was what you have referred to as "strong facilitation". If not, could you clarify for me?

I would like for you to restate "OUR cultural fears around strong facilitation" with what YOUR particular fears are around it, if you don't mind.

Thanks,
Judy

--

Rosa Zubizarreta:


Judy, you'd asked

?‚I would like for you to restate "OUR cultural fears around strong facilitation" with what YOUR particular fears are around it, if you don't mind. ?‚

What I was referring to has to do with a number of things...

For one thing, I've seen a bias in some circles to minimize the value of having a clear facilitator role.... some people even seem to be moving away from the word itself, preferring 'conversation host' or 'convenor' or ...

and yes, I can personally relate to having discomfort around the
'facilitator' role... IMO, the role of facilitator IS a powerful one... it IS a leadership role, and, it can be 'used and abused' in many ways... so yes, I too can feel wary and mistrustful with regard to what people may be doing in the name of 'facilitation'...

at the same time, I feel the role can be exceedingly helpful to a group, if handled well... so rather than do away with facilitation, or minimize its importance, I believe that it is important for all of us to learn to hold that role well, so we can "take turns" doing so...

and, I believe that we are all capable of doing so, especially if facilitation is defined as "offering presence" to each person in a group in a way that creates a strong container for a self-organizing inquiry to unfold... instead of, the more conventional approaches to facilitation which see to "manage" a group process by attempting to "manage" difficult people, "keep conflicts contained", etc. etc. etc.

Another, different strand of 'what I meant' has to do with my own past experiences with folks who practice forms of facilitation that DO resemble, in some significant ways, what I am advocating above...

I am talking now about Bohmian approaches to dialogue, as well as t-group processes, Tavistock, etc.... these approaches, as you may know, tend to be VERY non-linear, and do NOT seek to "manage" the group at all...

However, in these forms of group process, the facilitator tends to take a very 'back-seat' role, on purpose, ESPECIALLY at the very beginning... for all kinds of reasons which make sense, WITHIN the world-view of those particular models...

In my experience, when folks with this kind of background encounter a form of facilitation in which the facilitator takes a much more active role (ESPECIALLY at the very beginning! Smile I've often seen the reaction I described above... 'this is not dialogue if people are being asked to speak to the facilitator instead of to one another'...

Anyway, I think that's a lot of what I meant when I referred to 'cultural fears around strong facilitation'... both the first part, about how past negative experiences with abuse of leadership in general, and abuse of facilitation in particular, can very understandably lead folks to be suspicious of the power inherent in the facilitation role... and the second, about how past experiences within a particular paradigm can affect the way folks later perceive other, different approaches...

I hope this helps!

Best wishes,

Rosa


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Karlita

Joined: 08 Jul 2005
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 16, 2005 12:41 pm?? ?Post subject: Dialogue Values Continued (2) Reply with quote??? ???

Dialogue Values Continued 2

Judy O'Brien:

Hi Rosa,

Thanks so much for the clarification. I am a Bohmian dialogue facilitator and trainer, and must admit, I am one of those Bohmian types you speak of that have some bias about the kind of facilitation you describe where participants are asked to speak to (or through) a facilitator. But not because I'm against strong (highlyparticipatory, sometimes intervening?) facilitation. Frankly, I just don't understand how speaking through the facilitator serves the individual or the group. What is the intended goal of that (when it is practiced well, which I admittedly have not seen)?

I like to think that as the "designated facilitator" of a Bohmian dialogue I am particularly sensitive to the collective need in any moment for a back seat approach or one that is more inquiry oriented and directed. The later comes into play particularly when a conflict arises. More care and consideration is required (by all, including the facilitator) so that conflict can move the group to higher levels of understanding.

Thanks for raising some of these issues-

Best,
Judy


--


Rex Barger:

Today is Canada's Thanksgiving Day. Everyday is my thanksgiving day. I woke up this morning singing (gratefully): To be alive! And feeling free! And to have everyone in our family to be alive in every way! O how great it is to be alive!
(1) Everyday there's a newness. Something exciting to do! The dawn of life is upon us, so let's let our gladness shine through!
(2) Wake up, filled with new sunlight & the darkness can no longer stay. For each new generation can be a light for the whole world each day!
(3) Tell the whole population the time has now come to revive! We must all relearn the sensation that comes from being fully alive!
(4) Ring the bell of new freedom! Help one another to live, for the real joy of living comes when we can forgive!

Then to help make that song keep coming true, began my daily wake-up routine. It includes 13 leg-ups, 13 sit-ups, 13 straight-body push-ups then a minute of rest while I let my breathing return to normal & finally 13 knee-length push-ups. It's hard, but it's good.

Hey! I'm also so thankful for ncdd's thataway forum. What a great stimulus for deep deliberation! Because it exists in my world, I frequently wake up thinking about topics I can post there to help speed up my main goal of Healing Our Planet Earth (our only H.O.P.E.!)

Last night I posted two new ones: WAR-nings in need of PEACE-nings! & PEACE-nings in response to WAR-nings! I hope many of you will check them out & add your own WAR-nings & PEACE-nings so we can all help whittle away at the myriad problems we face in our weary world each day.

Hoping to meet more of you on the forum!

Rex Barger (pronounced bar-grrr), Hamilton, Ontario

--

Rosa Zubizarreta:

Hi Judy,

Thank you for your response...I'm very interested in whatever mutual understanding might arise from our conversation...

"I am a Bohmian dialogue facilitator and trainer, and must admit, I am one of those Bohmian types you speak of that have some bias about the kind of facilitation you describe where participants are asked to speak to (or through) a facilitator. But not because I'm against strong (highly participatory, sometimes intervening?) facilitation. Frankly, I just don't understand how speaking through the facilitator serves the individual or the group. What is the intended goal of that (when it is practiced well, which I admittedly have not seen)?"


Well, the value I have experienced, is that it can allow people in very emotionally charged situations to "overhear" one another... to listen to one another more deeply than they might if they were feeling more 'on the spot'...

once people have the opportunity to hear past their initial triggers, and hear a more complete and nuanced account of where one another is coming from, there is generally a shift in the energy... at which point the facilitator would 'melt into the background' much more...


"I like to think that as the "designated facilitator" of a Bohmian dialogue I am particularly sensitive to the collective need in any moment for a back seat approach or one that is more inquiry oriented and directed. The later comes into play particularly when a conflict arises. More care and consideration is required (by all, including the facilitator) so that conflict can move the group to higher levels of understanding."


Yes, it seems like in the Bohmian approach too, there are varying levels of facilitator activity...

and, all of these various tools have their own gifts to offer...

One of the significant differences between our two practices may be the subject matter... from what I understand Bohmian dialogue is more about inquiry into the nature of thought itself, while Dynamic Facilitation evokes dialogue around practical issues...

and, i realize that for some people, this would disqualify it from being considered 'dialogue'... and so it was very helpful to me, as I was working on my master's thesis on DF, to encounter Juanita Brown's thesis on the World Cafe form that she created... she writes about her experience with the Dialogue Project at MIT, and how it led her into a wider exploration as she began to question some of its assumptions...

My own background in dialogue includes a lot of Freirean pedagogy (which certainly addresses practical issues!) and Juanita is very familiar with Freire's work, and did a lot of work herself with the United Farmworkers...

She has this wonderfully inclusive paragraph that I love to quote...

"For me, Dialogue is like entering this central courtyard in the spacious home of our common human experience. There are many doorways into this central courtyard, just as there are many points of entry to the experience of Dialogue. Indigenous councils, salons, study circles, women's circles, farm worker house meetings, wisdom circles, non-traditional diplomatic efforts and other conversational modalities
from many cultures and historical periods had both contributed to and drawn from the generative space that we were calling dialogue."

Anyway, I'm sure there's lots more to be said about all this,

and I am interested in your thoughts... with all best wishes, Rosa


--


Judy O'Brien:


Hi Rosa,
Thanks for of the elucidation. I have a few observations about our shared views and some of our differing perspectives.

"Once people have the opportunity to hear past their initial triggers, and hear a more complete and nuanced account of where one another is coming from, there is generally a shift in the energy... at which point the facilitator would 'melt into the background' much more..."

In Bohmian dialogue too, there is an effort to hear past the initial triggers. The effort is the participant's however, not the facilitator's. Participants walk down the "ladder of inference", to use Chris Argyris' notion, and explore their own personal assumptions, values, and the closely held beliefs that underlie their actions and cause conflict. And yes, there is a shift in the energy when this is done.

Dynamic Faciliation reminds me of teacher-centered instruction, if I can use that parallel. You mention Paulo Freire, and I am wondering how the DF faciliator can avoid what Freire calls "banking" where the "educator makes deposits in the educatee"?

"one of the significant differences between our two practices may be the subject matter... from what i understand Bohmian dialogue is more about inquiry into the nature of thought itself, while Dynamic Facilitation evokes dialogue around practical issues..."

Ah, yes, the practical issue, probably the most often stated concern in my dialogue trainings. I can only speak for myself here, and not for Bohmian dialogue or for other facilitators of Bohmian dialogue. In the years that I have been facilitating dialogue, most have been focalized around extraordinarily practical (and divisive) issues...land use, gender inequality, racism, domestic violence, educational reform, etc. And yes, rather than seeing the issues themselves as problems to be solved, I see the issues as opportunities to explore, pay attention to, reflect upon the root cause of the continual crises affecting us....the nature of thought itself and its subjective interpretation of "the facts". The Bohmian conversation is divergent, it is a conversation that is unfolding and moving out to include the whole in that generative spacious courtyard Juanita speaks of.

But what I do next is, after the dialogue, I have a conversation about the dialogue...called a debrief. This conversation is more convergent. What were the themes, the issues, the objections that were raised? What wisdom emerged from the group? What possibilities for action came forth from the generative space...or not.? I have someone put these comments on charts. How I listen to this conversation is different from how I listen in a dialogue. In this conversation, I am listening for the words. In a dialogue, I am listening for the space between the words, if that makes sense to you.

This has been useful Rosa, thanks very much.
Judy


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Karlita

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 16, 2005 2:13 pm?? ?Post subject: Dialogue Values Continued (3) Reply with quote??? ???

Dialogue Values Continued 3

Rosa Zubizarreta:

Hi Judy,

Thank you for your response.

I think we are saying different things here, which to me are NOT mutually exclusive...

"Thanks for of the elucidation. I have a few observations about our shared views and some of our differing perspectives. "

"once people have the opportunity to hear past their initial triggers, and hear a more complete and nuanced account of where one another is coming from, there is generally a shift in the energy... at which point the facilitator would 'melt into the background' much more..."

"In Bohmian dialogue too, there is an effort to hear past the initial triggers. The effort is the participant's however, not the facilitator's. Participants walk down the "ladder of inference", to use Chris Argyris' notion, and explore their own personal assumptions, values, and the closely held beliefs that underlie their actions and cause conflict. And yes, there is a shift in the energy when this is done. "

Yes, and I'm sure that approach works very well...

and, I am describing something that is somewhat different, and also works well, and is designed for different situations...

"Dynamic Faciliation reminds me of teacher-centered instruction, if I can use that parallel. You mention Paulo Freire, and I am wondering how the DF faciliator can avoid what Freire calls "banking" where the "educator makes deposits in the educatee"? "

I'd be interested in hearing more about what I've said about DF, that reminds you of teacher-centered instruction...

In my own experience, it's quite the opposite... in DF the facilitator limits themselves to 1) listening fully to each participant; 2) valuing each contribution by reflecting back what that participant has said to the participant's satisfaction, and 3) welcoming divergence... I find that it resembles Rogerian client-centered therapy, (or, Rogerian classroom facilitation!) more than anything else I've encountered...

(from what I've gathered, Roger's work with large groups was somewhat different; it involved much less active supporting of each participant, I think in part because of other influences in the evolution of T-groups... but that is another story...)

"one of the significant differences between our two practices may be the subject matter... from what I understand Bohmian dialogue is more about inquiry into the nature of thought itself, while Dynamic Facilitation evokes dialogue around practical issues... "

"Ah, yes, the practical issue, probably the most often stated concern in my dialogue trainings. I can only speak for myself here, and not for Bohmian dialogue or for other facilitators of Bohmian dialogue. In the years that I have been facilitating dialogue, most have been focalized around extraordinarily practical (and divisive) issues...land use, gender inequality, racism, domestic violence, educational reform, etc. And yes, rather than seeing the issues themselves as problems to be solved, I see the issues as opportunities to explore, pay attention to, reflect upon the root cause of the continual crises affecting us....the nature of thought itself and its subjective interpretation of "the facts". The Bohmian conversation is divergent, it is a conversation that is unfolding and moving out to include the whole in that generative spacious courtyard Juanita speaks of. "

Again, it sounds like what you do is quite wonderful! and in this case, it sounds very similar to what the group ends up doing, quite naturally, in DF... (maybe the 'avoidance of practical issues' is more an issue in Bohmian dialogue theory than in practice??

"But what I do next is, after the dialogue, I have a conversation about the dialogue...called a debrief. This conversationis more convergent. What were the themes, the issues, the objections that were raised? What wisdom emerged from the group? What possibilities for action came forth from the generative space...or not.? I have someone put these comments on charts. How I listen to this conversation is different from how I listen in a dialogue. In this conversation, I am listening for the words. In a dialogue, I am listening for the space between the words, if that makes sense to you. "

yes.

and thank you for your description of your work...

it feels moving, and powerful, and effective...

if it is ok, i'd like to share a bit more about 'another way of doing things'...

in my experience, it is possible for divergence/convergence/divergence/convergence to occur naturally in a group... kind of like breathing in and breathing out...

part of what happens is that this natural movement may not be visible to us initially, because of the lenses through which we view the world... in which we tend to identify 'convergence' with formal
decision-making processes (did we vote? did we do a straw poll? did we lift our hands or say 'aye'?)

when those are not present, it can be easy to miss the natural convergences that occur...

Now, I hasten to say that there are very good reasons for having formal decison-making processes in place.... If there is a situation where there is any kind of oppression, or silencing, or group pressure, it can make it very easy for 'false consensus' to take place, and part of the reason for creating formal decision-making processes is to prevent that from happening....

However the problem comes when we start to believe that convergence has not occurred, UNLESS a formal decision-making process has taken place... kind of like believing that 'no learning has taken place', UNLESS there has been some formal 'teaching'!

One of the distinctive gifts of DF, is that we check for convergences, a few minutes AFTER we sense that they have naturally occurred, rather than attempting to 'generate convergence' in any sort of way...

In this way, if in fact someone did NOT feel that they had had an opportunity to voice their own divergent perspective, we hold a space for that to be voiced... WITHOUT diminishing the value of natural convergence by 'training' the group to focus only on 'formal decision-making processes'....

does this make any sense?

"This has been useful Rosa, thanks very much. "

Likewise! I find it helpful both to listen to others' experience and
perspectives,as well as to have the opportunity to 'think aloud' about my own
practice...

thank you....best wishes, Rosa

--

Jimmy Pryor:

The Christian Science Monitor is running "an eight-part series to help Americans bridge the bitter red-blue divide." "Talking with the Enemy" started October 15 and can be read online at:
http://search.csmonitor.com/search_content/1015/p10s02-coop.html.
Daniel Yankelovich wrote the first article in the series.

Jimmy Pryor

--

Margaret Herzig:

In a message dated 10/12/04 12:20:32 AM, writes:

"For me, Dialogue is like entering this central courtyard in the spacious home of our common human experience. There are many doorways into this central courtyard, just as there are many points of entry to the experience of Dialogue. Indigenous councils, salons, study circles, women's circles, farm worker house meetings, wisdom circles, non-traditional diplomatic efforts and other conversational modalities from many cultures and historical periods had both contributed to and drawn from the generative space that we were calling dialogue."

Rosa, thanks for this lovely quote from Juanita! One additional thought about the place/role of a facilitator, having to do with timing and context. Herb Kelman - who works in war-torn areas - has written about the facilitator as a repository of trust when there is no trust among the participants. At the beginning of a dialogue on a very divisive issue, in a situation with lots of old habitual ways of speaking and with little or no trust, to have participants respond to some questions posed by the facilitator, making eye contact with the facilitator or not, as the participant wishes, can be a good way to get started. The facilitator is the repository of trust, but only temporarily, as trust develops. As people hear what each other has to say (as Rosa described), and experience responding in fresh ways to fresh questions, in my experience, the dynamic changes quite naturally and people become more trusting of and genuinely interested in each other. Then the facilitator can take a much less visible role. It seems that people have different definitions of dialogue such that for some people a "starting" process is part of the dialogue process - for others it's not really dialogue until a later phase. This definitional difference may underlie some of the different opinions about what good dialogue facilitation looks like. I certainly agree with you, Rosa, that the field of family therapy has a lot to offer if what one seeks to do is foster fresh conversations and more satisfying relationships where there has been stuckness, stereotyping, blame, shouting or stony silence, etc. The particular purpose of a "dialogue" (which, again, has so many meanings), the previous relationships of the participants, and the hopes and intentions that the participants bring, so powerfully shape - in my mind - choices about facilitation stlyes, questions and structures, that I find it hard to talk in the abstract about best methods. But I've personally learned a lot from my colleagues who are family therapists - less about specific tools and more about general approach.

Looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones at NCDD. At the conference there will be a meal during which people will gather at "networking tables," organized around a topic of shared interest. I wonder if there would be many people interested in the topic, "Contributions to D & D from Family Therapy." Maybe I'll propose it as a topic. Also, FYI, I'll be co-leading a session with one of my colleagues, Dick Chasin, who is a psychiatrist and family therapist, that will involve sharing a bit about narrative family therapy and approaches to reversing polarization.

Maggie Herzig
Public Conversations Project
Watertown, MA

--


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Karlita

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 16, 2005 2:15 pm?? ?Post subject: Dialogue Values Continued (4) Reply with quote??? ???

Dialogue Values Continued 4


Rosa Zubizarreta:

Hi Judy,
Thank you for the opportunity to clarify further...

"I believe I attended the session on the Wisdom Council and Citizen's Amendment. I would love to hear your perspective on whether that facilitation was what you have referred to as "strong facilitation". If not, could you clarify for me? "

I believe I addressed this in an earlier post, where I wrote:

IMO that approach was NOT modeled very well in that session for a variety of reasons...

"For one thing, it seemed that Jim saw that session as more of a lecture and a platform to present some of the ideas that he feels particularly strongly about, rather than as an experiential dialogue designed to model a particular 'facilitation approach'... and as a result, he ended up being more of a participant in the 'conflict' than a facilitator... "

It might help to add that, while Jim is the originator of a facilitation approach that I (and many others) have found extremely useful, he can also be a very 'passionate advocate' for his own theories... I think it would have taken a team of experienced facilitators, who were themselves more neutral about the content being presented, for that session to have had a different outcome.

All that aside,I do think that the "third party listening" model of facilitation is VERY different from what many people are used to as "dialogue facilitation"... and one of the common objections often posed by people, is that 'this is not dialogue if we (the participants) are being asked to speak to the facilitator instead of to one another'...

In my own experience, that particular 'drawback' is

a) Short-lived, as in the later stages of the process participants ARE speaking directly with one another, while the facilitator has faded into the background... and even more importantly,

b) Well-worth it, as it allows highly conflictual situations to be addressed productively, and allows us to work with people 'just as they are', without needing to have participants needing to learn the rules of a new 'communication grammar' in order to have a productive outcome...

and again, i agree that, unfortunately, this is NOT what you experienced...

"I would like for you to restate "OUR cultural fears around strong facilitation" with what YOUR particular fears are around it, if you don't mind. "

Okay, thanks for such a clear request! I will do that in a separate post...

Best wishes, Rosa

--

Rex Barger:

Rosa, no wonder "we tend to, as a community, shy away from practices that call for 'strong facilitation'.."! We should! If we truly respect each other, we must respect our right (our need) to be self-directed. "instead of seeing 'all leadership as bad', and attempting to 'do away with it altogether' in the name of egalitarianism," let's make sure our own leadership is healthy (non-dominating) & whenever we suspect that the group we're in is headed for a "dysfunctional mess", let's stand up & describe our fears as accurately as we can & call for all to exercise 'true' leadership by letting everyone be as self-directed as we ourselves want to be. We would, by our actions, be redefining 'leadership', more strongly, than if we tried to bully the others by DEMANDING that they do things OUR WAY! It may not prevent a dysfunctional mess, but it might plant a healthy seed.

Jim Snow's recent post on Slash&Burn Politics, told about a man who wrote a letter to GMU to question a huge fee for Michael Moore to speak at GMU. The size of the fee seemed excessive to me, so I suspect that what he was doing was exercising healthy leadership. But the torrent of abusive language that event seems to have released on campus was appalling. And that could happen to anyone who follows my advice above. But I believe that good leadership is doing what we believe is best for our common good. This includes listening to & accepting & respecting the people who disagree. So I say go for it & let the chips fall where they may.

--

James A. Snow:

A small correction to Rex's e-mail along with further comments - the Michael Moore event was scheduled at Geo. Mason; he asked for $35k and a contract was signed (Mary Matalin, also contacted as a counterbalance, asked for $70k, but that was not ever mentioned publicly, nor seriously considered after the $70k was known). A northern Virginia House of Delegates member found out, wrote a letter to the president of GMU, posted his letter on a website - www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1229631/posts - and subsequent language, tactics, etc. flew back and forth, with Merten's e-mail address (public info) posted. Merten was then flooded with angry protests from participants in the website blog, and Merten then cancelled. That was the impetus. The conflict (the language) did not originate from GMU faculty or staff or students. Read the posts at the above URL and you'll understand.

The matter is not concluded. My ongoing questions: How do we respond when what we value is simply trashed? In this polarized conflict, how do/will we even get parties into the same room to dialogue? How are we going to do it on Nov. 3? And ... what do we do if "winners" gloat and "losers" respond in the many dysfunctional ways we are so familiar with? I think there is both a lot of "inner" work to be done as well as a LOT of "outer" work.

Jim Snow

--

MaryBeth Merritt:


Dear Jim,

Regarding trashed values... for me, I find situations like that painful and discouraging, but It calls me to model my beliefs/practices even more. Another practice I would like to mention is the NVC work of Marshall Rosenberg, where we take responsibility for getting what we want by naming our feelings, connect those feelings to a need that is being met or unmet and then making a request (please forgive the rather simplified presentation here). I think people can relate to my feelings sometimes more than my ideas. It engages their hearts more than my ideas do. They have a web site at www.cnvc.com. It sounds like maybe it has to move from dialogue to conflict resolution and then back again when the air is cleared a bit. Isn't it amazing how the universe gives us so many opportunities to practice these important things?

It kind of makes me do the inner work and hopefully the outer will come into alignment.

All the best,
MB

--

Rex Barger:

Thanks, Jim, for the update on GMU & MM. Your ongoing questions are tough:

How do we respond when what we value is simply trashed? In this polarized conflict, how do/will we even get parties into the same room to dialogue?

I (Rex) have little hope for your last question, but I think we should all spend time on finding responses for your first.

First of all I believe it is important to untangle the issues. The right to speak needs to be untangled from the freedom to ask for an excessive fee. I value freedom of speech but not freedom for greed. But, more fundamentally, I value living my values (scattering healthy seeds even on rocky gound). It's also good to remove as many rocks (attenuate as much arrogance) as possible first.

--

Rosa Zubizarreta:

Dear James,

Thank you for your comments. I share the concern you expressed in your last posting, about the need to go beyond "winners gloating" and "losers" simply getting more bitter, regardless of who the winners and losers are...about "how we respond when what we value is simply trashed", and "getting people to the table"... there is a real-life story that is very emblematic for me, about the relationship between dialogue and other forms of political action: it took place in Sonoma County several years ago, when the local government was considering a forced-spraying plan to protect agricultural interests from a
particular insect...

The government was refusing to dialogue with the folks who had environmental concerns, UNTIL an activist campaign trained and signed up hundreds of people who were willing to engage in non-violent civil disobedience at the first sign of spraying...

At that point, the leadership of the campaign was far-sighted enough to shift their tactics back to what they had originally wanted in the first place.. the opportunity to sit down with government officials, and agribusiness, in order to work together to come up with creative alternatives that would meet everyone's needs.

Of course, the larger story does not end there... in this instance, the agreement that was reached by all the folks around the table has not yet needed to be tested in real life, as the pest threat has not fortunately reached that point...

However there have been many other cases of political conflicts, where once an agreement has been reached through dialogue and it seems like the 'opposition has been pacified', the parties in power revert back to 'their old ways'... which means that the folks who are asking for dialogue, need to find effective ways of ensuring that the outcomes of the dialogue are indeed being implemented in good faith...

It requires a lot of skill to do this, and there have been many failures, and therefore in many places around the world, there is a lot of justified cynicism around notions of 'dialogue'...

HOWEVER, I remain optimistic that we can learn from experience, especially if we are willing to listen to those people who are critical of dialogue! with all best wishes, Rosa

--

MaryBeth Merritt:

Dear Rosa,
I am replying to what you said to Jim regarding his apparent upset about trashed vales, etc. Forgive me if I have misunderstood, but the response did not feel very helpful to me because it was not grounded in anything that I could relate to, but seemed rather non-specific and global. Yes, you did mention the story about pesticide spraying but it didn't seem that germane. IN fact, the implicit threat of non-violence seemed pretty pre-emptive and lead to forcing the situation into dialogue-- or else! Perhaps that is needed in a situation like that. When I think of community dialogue around things like water or regional stewardship or even pro/anti war, I believe that if one side were to threaten a tactic that forces the other side into a defensive posture, they will walk. I'm wondering if you would want to explain that further? Also, it seems pretty obvious that trust and good faith need to be part of the dialogic process, but who can guarantee that except for our own actions/good word? I think what I am getting to here is that I am frustrated with the ideas/ideals stuff and want to bring this work into the world in a way that people can relate to and use. I do agree with you in the end that its experience that is the real teacher!

peace,
MB

--

Rosa Zubizarreta:

Hi MaryBeth,

Dear Rosa,

"I am replying to what you said to Jim regarding his apparent upset about trashed vales, etc. Forgive me if I have misunderstood, but the response did not feel very helpful to me because it was not grounded inanything that I could relate to, but seemed rather non-specific and global. "

Well, I hear that my response to him, was not helpful to you... maybe it wasn't helpful to him, either! But be that as it may, i will attempt to respond to your e-mail as best I can...

"Yes, you did mention the story about pesticide spraying but it didn't seem that germane. IN fact, the implicit threat of non-violence seemed pretty pre-emptive and lead to forcing the situation into dialogue-- or else! Perhaps that is needed in a situation like that. "

Well yes, I don't think you have misunderstood at all. I was specifically saying that there are MANY situations in the world, where the only way in which dialogue BECOMES an option, is by folks being willing to put their bodies on the line.

My sense was that this applied to Jim's situation, in that the "powers that be" made a decision without any input from the larger academic community, and did not seem inclined to do so simply because someone might suggest that it could be a good idea...

and, unfortunately, i DO think that is the situation in many cases...as to whether non-violence constitutes a "threat'... i guess some folks might see it that way.

I see it as often the most viable response to situations where serious injustice and/or violence has already been committed, and repeated attempts to request change, engage in dialogue, etc., have been already rebuffed....

"When I think of community dialogue around things like water or regional stewardship or even pro/anti war, I believe that if one side were to threaten a tactic that forces the other side into a defensive posture, they will walk. I'm wondering if you would want to explain that further? "

Sure... i see these as two different kinds of situations entirely.

One is a response to institutionalized power and its abuse.

The other is an attempt to bridge a polarized situation, where often two equally powerless groups have been misled into hating one another ("divide and conquer" being the oldest game in politics...)

"Also, it seems pretty obvious that trust and good faith need to be part of the dialogic process, but who can guarantee that except for our own actions/good word? "

Well, what I was implying is that, in the first situation, we need to be as "peaceful as doves and as wise as serpents'', and be careful about thinking that we have "won a victory" too easily. As i see it, for dialogue to be an effective tool for organized political change in repressive circumstances, there may well need to be an ongoing dance between the willingness to sit down at the table, and the willingness
to lay one's body on the line. (for a fascinating and specific example of what I am talking about here, one could study the history of the last twenty years in Ecuador, where activist indigenous organizations have organized the larger disenfranchised population and, at various points in time, led non-violent regime changes through national strikes...)

But it seems to me that we speaking about very different situations here, and that is the source of the misunderstanding. I think I wouldagree with you, that using dialogue to build mutual understanding amongthe population at large, is a very worthwhile endeavor. And that is somewhat different situation than attempting to dialogue with an institutionalized power, to redress a particular instance of abuse....

Of course, the two are certainly related, even though they are distinct...

"I think what I am getting to here is that I am frustrated with the ideas/ideals stuff and want to bring this work into the world in a way that people can relate to and use. I do agree with you in the end that its experience that is the real teacher! "

Yes, I agree, and I find it helpful when we can all share our experiences...

with all best wishes,

Rosa

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