I’ve been reflecting on what’s going on in the US right now, and linking this to how we can create better social worlds in an organisational setting. I’m not sure what to do with these thoughts apart about from casting them upon water, and see what comes back.
As human beings one of the ways we make sense of the world is to talk about it. We conduct research about. We collect data about. We do surveys about. We talk about the statistics. We gather to talk about something. This form of sense-making leads to ‘othering’.
Another unintended consequence of ‘aboutness’ sense making is that it can lead to objectifying what we talking about, and ‘other’ who we talking about.
There’s no doubt that ‘othering’ is the cause of many of the injustices of the world, for example racism. However, addressing these injustices through similar ‘othering’ monologues is not the solution either. It actually brings divisions into sharper focus by creating a them and a us – usually framed as, good us, bad them without a way of dealing with the duality that is constructed.
While this type of positional, propositional, critical frames may be the norm, it does not necessarily help us to ‘go on’. Generative movement is more likely if we change the conversational pattern from ‘aboutness’ monologues to ‘with’ness’ dialogues structured to have an intentional flow that goes I, me, us, them – to ‘we’ and ‘our’ community.
We should see change as an on-going conversation rather than a series of monologues. Yes, an important part of the process is making space to listen to each other’s stories but the purpose must always be to build a better, more inclusive (we) communities. A friend of mine used to (still) say “two monologues doth not a dialogue make”. The key to having generative, healthy dialogue is to co-create trusting relationships. There are no short cuts.