Dialogue

Last week, in a quiet café, I witnessed two intelligent people shouting at each other over a latte. Neither seemed once to listen to the other, in their twenty-minute heated exchange. I speculated that if I had interrupted them and asked each what the other had just said, they would have been unable to say… I was reminded of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, when the bard cautions us not to let life become a tale ‘full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’.

I felt seething fury last week. I had avoided giving a colleague some difficult feedback about the impact working with him was having on me, and eventually he confronted me about the inevitable leakage of my irritation. I was not pleased with myself for avoiding giving timely feedback, nor was I best pleased with him for the public confrontation. While we ironed out our differences, the situation got me reflecting on how to have ‘courageous conversations’.

 I was supervising a group of coaches recently when I realised, to my dismay, that we did not share a common understanding of ‘dialogue’. To me, coaching at its best is deeply dialogic – yet so many introductions to coaching – like the GROW model, and conceptions of performance-coaching – are not at all dialogic; just because talking is involved, doesn’t make it dialogue – we could be having a conversation, discussion, debate, for example! I thought it was time to clarify what I mean, as a Gestaltist, by ‘dialogue’…