Generative Dialogue: Let’s Get Practical (#7)

The last blog post (Q12- Clash of Civilizations or Dialogue among Civilizations?) is too “Cloud 9,” right? So, let’s get practical or down-to-earth.

Below are four sample personal practices you can try starting today to apply the principles behind generative dialogue. Please feedback us about your experiences on them using the Comments link below.

  • Discovering your blindfolds. If you read or hear about anything that seems “crazy,” “stupid,” “weird” or “useless” to you, and the next action you are about to do is to to laugh or ignore it, hold your horses! Notice your reaction or judgment. Now is precisely an opportunity for you to discover one of your mental boxes or blindfolds. What made you judge or label it as “crazy” or “stupid;” what was your assumption? Examine it. Is the assumption still valid? If yes, then retain it; if not, then revise it. Now that you are aware of your assumption, you have the power of choice over it. Most often our choices are unconsciously driven by our blindfolds and assumptions. Awareness can reverse this situation: we consciously manage our mindset, instead of our mindset unconsciously managing our choices.
  • Listening. Do you notice that there are times when a person is talking to you, and while he or she is still talking you were busy mentally preparing what you will say next? You were only listening 50%! Do you notice that when a person you like very much or hate very much is talking, the words you hear are instantly screened by your internal judge? Your liking or hating the one talking is preventing you from 100% listening! Or did you notice your disappointment when you expected a person to say something and in fact the person said something else? Your expectation then made you ignore, oppose, rechannel, resist or in other ways NOT listen to what he or she just said?
  • Inner labels. Have you experienced a person lying to you once (or twice, or three times, etc.) and so you said to yourself “this person is a liar.” Your mind had attached the label “liar” to this person (your “mental model” of the person). The next time you have a conversation with the person where he may in fact be telling a truth, the label you adopted automatically prejudges all his statements as untrue. Or, you no longer want to ever talk to the person again.
  • Automatic defensive reactions. Have you experienced a situation where a colleague is criticizing you, and while he or she is still talking, you start to feel really bad. Instead of trying to understand what he is saying at that moment, your mind then instantly whirred into action preparing counter-arguments, explanations, rationalizations or counter-criticisms. Have you also experienced that because you really felt angry, you cut him off before he was finished talking and you actually said what your mind prepared: counter-arguments, explanations, rationalizations or counter-criticisms. There was an automaticity to all these processes. You were more aware of them only through recall and reflection afterwards. Had we been more aware of our internal mental processes — at the time they were happening — we could have held back from automatically defending and heard the other person more. It may even happen that the other person may only be appearing to us as criticizing; in other words the criticism was only our own interpretation. His motive may have been completely different — but our anger and the automaticities it triggers within us would then have prevented us from knowing this.

Have you experienced any of these or something quite similar? Please share your story.

Mahatma Gandhi said “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

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