Behind the Dialogues…

Posted by Brian S. Beck, M.A. on March 27, 2012  /   Posted in Pub Dialogues

Part 1: Out of the chat room, into the pub

If you have ever witnessed an online conversation that quickly moves off topic and turns into name-calling animosity, then you will understand the primary motive for The Pub Dialogues. This type of online bickering is quite annoying, and when about important topics it gets us nowhere and impedes progress.  Chatter is destroying conversation.  Face-to-face conversation is vital for learning, dispute resolution, problem solving, and progress.

Conversations about important and sensitive topics are not always easy, especially when involving opposing viewpoints.  Emotions can run high.  People tend to voice their concerns without listening to others, and engage in debate, where winning is the goal.  However, conversations are not zero-sum; there is no winner or loser.  Just because someone has a different opinion does not mean they (or we) are wrong….or right.

During these difficult conversations, it is important to adhere to certain principles or rules. Easier said than done, but skilled facilitators can help. A facilitator is a neutral party who utilizes certain techniques, skills and methods to keep interlocutors on topic, respectful and engaged.  It is important that facilitators capture ideas that emerge (sometimes quite quickly), points of commonality, areas of disagreement, and clarify statements/questions that may be confusing.

The Internet has no such facilitator. Online communication is raw, instant and commonly unchecked. This style of communication seeps into real-life situations, where offense, confusion and emotions can increase enmity, polarization and stagnation. Online behavior in real-world situations is ugly. It’s time to return to the social scene and talk.


Read Part 2 here

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