Reflection: The Challenge and Power of Dialogue
AbstractThe word ‘dialogue,’ though in its dictionary definition the equivalent of ‘conversation,’ is most often used with a sense of purpose, usually that of bridging a gap of some kind, ending alienation, or resolving conflict. Like most people, I have had plenty of experience with dialogue: in my case as a family member and as a parent, trying to reach agreements with teenagers; as a peace activist, trying to achieve consensus in groups and committees and trying to engage with a sceptical public; as a third party facilitator of dialogue in conflicts between neighbours and within organisations; and, particularly, in situations of violent or potentially violent conflict between politicians and/or armed groups. I have used this opportunity for reflection to gather together some of the salient things I have learnt over the years, from others involved in nonviolent activism and peace making and from my own experience. I have focused on dialogue as something distinct from negotiation, though the two things often overlap, especially at a point where the focus is on practical solutions of a political nature.