Partnership Principle 4 Dialogue: Turning Contact into Connection

The best way to solve problems and to fight against war is through dialogue.–Malala Yousafzai Social media. Texting. E-mail. Even snail mail and old-fashioned phone calls. Humans on the planet today have more (and faster) means to communicate with each other than any previous generation, yet we have never been more disconnected from each other. We know more about our friends’ and families’ lives and beliefs than we did a decade ago, but we don’t understand each other any more fully.

We make contact, but we don’t connect.

The lack of true dialogue in our personal, professional, and social discourse is a symptom of the growing tensions in our society and a source, one could argue, of the rancor and polarization of our political discourse.

Dialogue doesn’t mean listening passively while the other person speaks, nor does it involve back-and-forth debate until one person can be declared “the winner.” Dialogue involves two people sharing their ideas who share the hope that talking about the issue could bring about a solution, a better way.

Mark Twain said, “Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have some conversation.” Our comment-thread culture has us believing that every point requires a counterpoint, that expressing one’s ideas can be routine fodder for ridicule and hostility. Perhaps we don’t need to stop communicating with each other entirely, but maybe we could transform our discussions into dialogue, turn our contacts into connections.

In this week’s Partnership Principles video clip, Jim Knight examines the great thinkers in the area of dialogue to underscore the importance of conversation in all of our interactions. If we want real change in education or in anything else, we need to change the conversation.