Most of us know somewhere deep-down that our team talk accomplishes more than just transferring, coordinating, and managing information, but we rarely act like it. Instead, we perpetuate a view that communication is simply the movement of information from one mind to another to coordinate and control activity. We constantly ask people if they are “getting our point,” as if their message is a package coming though the mail, and we simply label miscommunication as a failure of two or more persons not sharing meaning, by saying things such as, “you aren’t getting what I’m saying.” This notion of transmission dominates our understanding of communication. But it doesn’t have to.
Instead, we can realize the power of communication to create meaning, shape our relationships, groups, and organizations, and transform the work we do, the teams which do that work, and the organizations that we create, sustain, and change through our interaction.
Applying the concept of mindful dialogue can transform your team’s talk, the way your team does its work, the relationships among your team’s members, your team’s work, and maybe even your organization: Here are four features of mindful dialogue you can apply today in your teams:
- Dialogue requires mindfulness. Mindful talk is purposeful, strategic, thoughtful, and relational. Research tells us that we become more mindful when we sense danger, are confused, or perceive a negative outcome. Especially if you see your work as really important or meaningful, perhaps it would be good to talk more mindfully when you engage with your team?
- Dialogue offers equitable transaction. Everyone’s voice matters. Thus, everyone – not just team leaders or the most powerful team members – are offered opportunities to meaningfully contribute. In today’s organizations, the challenges are more complex. We need more voices around the table, not fewer. By the way, I think Scripture (Ephesians 4 and I Corinthians 12) has something to say about this, too – it’s called the Body of Christ principle. Are you offering equal opportunities for all your team members to share their voices?
- Dialogue involves empathic conversation. As humans, we can take the place of another, and see the world as s/he sees it. Here, alternate perspectives are welcomed, yet they don’t have to dominate the conversation, nor do they have to be demonized if they are not consistent with the status quo. Do you welcome different perspectives, ideas, and solutions, or do you require submission to a particular way of thinking? And when is the last time you’ve tried to see a problem, issue, or situation from the vantage point of others in the room?
- Dialogue enables real connection. Dialogue theorists suggest real meeting happens when we genuinely communicate and engage with the humanness of other people. Martin Buber distinguished between the I-It and I-Thou relationships, suggesting we either see people as “Its” –objects that simply exist to help us get what we want – or “Thous” –soul-filled beings created in the image of God. Most stuff on communication and meetings supposes that people are merely “Its”, existing solely for you to use, control, exploit, to accomplish your goals. But, people are not objects. It’s about time we stop treating them as such.
This kind of mindful dialogue can change our teams, our relationships, our classrooms, our workplaces, our schools, our churches, our ministries, and most importantly, our lives. Will you give it a shot?
Photo Credit: James