Rare that I completely reproduce a full post from someone else’s blog, but Doug Germann did a masterful job today of capturing the terror of dialogue:
There is deadly risk in dialogue. We are imperiled. If we are born in conversation, we die there, too. We die when we leave it; we die when we meet another, for we cannot long remain other, and yet we must. Both people must be willing to let shields down, the shields which keep us inside our images of ourselves. Our plans may not be accepted, they might be tossed aside, worthless. We might be tossed aside worthless. Our very being might be killed and it is not for sure that someone new will rise from the ashes, or that if such a one does we will want it. We might not recognize ourselves, indeed we might not survive in any form. This is why we hold back, not willing to lose who we are. We are afraid we die. This is why we argue for our position. Yet this is our test of faith: we put forth what reality beyond truth we see, not knowing whether it will bear any fruit. Have we done good or ill we cannot know. Ours is but to offer, trembling to offer. This is a test of faith for despite our past experience that something better arises from the ashes of dialogue, we can never be sure about this time. We risk it all.
So if you do not wish to risk, I will understand. I will not hold it against you. Great courage is not mine, either. I shrink from dialogue. I shrink from revealing myself and from receiving your revealings. I fear that I may have to give up myself and my pet plans and my comfortable ways of living. I may have to learn something new, change my way of working and living, meet new people, become a new person myself.
There is risk here: what else goes with it? A responsibility not just to accept what the others say and go along, but to meet what they say, to throw my offering into the mix, see where the similarities and dissimilarities and correlates are. How are we related, how are our ideas and our dreams related? Perhaps tonight the conversations will turn away from what I think will work into something else: it is my duty to listen; it is also my duty to share my vision; then it is my duty to bend so we can weave a new pattern. There might be a better form. I wrote that like I do not believe those words, but indeed there might be a clue to a fuller measure beyond this half measure, there might be indeed something grandly better. Prepare to be surprised.
It’s a near impossible task to describe to someone what will happen in a skillfully conducted dialogue where the participants agree to stray from their well manicured positions and enter into a world of complexity and difficulty that produces emergent learning. It’s impossible to describe the feeling of your perspective shifting and new insights streaming in. But it is scary, and we do well as facilitators when we remember that the best work is done when people agree to take themselves to that edge. We can meet them there, carefully and with compassion and invite that next step. So can we be that big?
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The quotation from Doug Germann reminds me of my favorite lines from Bill Stafford:
If you don’t know the kind of person I am
And I don’t know the kind of person you are
A pattern that others made may prevail in the world
And following the wrong god home we may miss our star.
Dialogue is a powerful mirror. At first, we may take it lightly, but then the medicine has a chance to work all the way into our cells, and we notice how fragile our views, perspectives, and assumptions really are. If we can acknowledge that, just notice it as a potential blow to all our masks, then I believe there can be new self-acceptance and new community from a deeper, stronger place. We find the edge and learn, with a little help from our friends. Thanks for posting this from Doug Germann. It’s magnificent.
Nice..thanks Dan. Grab the updated feeds off the sidebar.
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