While I wish I knew who taught it to me, I will be satisfied that I learned it: the habit of coming out from behind my desk and sitting with the individual needing to talk with me. It was amazing how much more real and meaningful conversations became without the barrier.
It is not just physical barriers, but the metaphorical desks and tables, that separate us from each other and from real conversation together. The biggest internal barrier to true dialogue is judgment. As we believe we already know what the other person is going to say, or where the conversation will go, we effectually end the conversation before it begins. This is a trust killer.
Dialogic trust begins in me as I put aside the judgments – small and large – that block hearing another human being. Removing judgment allows one to not only hear what is being said by another, it also presents one with the privilege of learning about, and understanding, the other person. When someone is listened to by you, when someone senses your effort to understand, he/she offers you their trust.
Without this mutual gift of trust, there is no dialogue. In his book, Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together, William Isaacs defines dialogue as a conversation with a center, not sides. As we drop the barriers to honest connection and meaning with one another, trust begins to flow in the conversation.
The true blessing of dialogic trust is in discovering where the flow takes us.