What’s with the name Contemplative Dialogue?

  • The challenge of working across cultures is that most anything we called it would have baggage for somebody (or been copyrighted).  ‘Contemplative’ at its simplest means ‘taking a long, compassionate look at the real.’ Peter Senge might call that ‘noticing current reality.’ Forest fire fighters and pilots might call it ‘situational awareness.’
    What it means is getting as close as you can to seeing things as they are without our bias or filters blinding us.  Then when we make choices or respond, we have a better chance of dealing with the actual situation or person and not a misperception.
    The ‘compassion’ piece makes a difference.  It helps us get past the kind of guarded and defended reactions that undercut us doing things together. Some organizations translate that as ‘respect’ or ‘shared learning.’  Whatever you call it, it changes things.
  • A working definition of ‘Dialogue’ is ‘the practice of building shared meaning.’ It imagines that our inability to get on the same page prevents us from solving problems we care about.  It recognizes that often, our disagreements aren’t even about the real concerns or positions we hold, but some caricature or stereotype we hold about ‘the other side.’
    Dialogue helps us get past that.  It doesn’t mean we wind up agreeing.  But at least we’ll know what our real differences are, and maybe what real possibilities exist to work together better. It’s not consensus. It doesn’t water down differences. At the end of the day I am still free to make my best choices. But if dialogue is done well, I’ll likely be in a better spot to know what those best choices might be.

Why do you call it a ‘practice?’

  • There are lots of good theories out there and a new book is published daily giving you one.  But CD assumes that the highest leverage point in working and relating better lies at the levels of human noticing, reacting, and engaging.
    We’ve all accumulated habits and tendencies since we were young about how we do that.  But how do you even notice some of the ways those subtle habits limit you or help you?
    That’s what the ‘practice of Contemplative Dialogue’ helps you do.  Notice them, learn ways to improve them in real time and in challenging settings.  So the next time you’re at a meeting and that jaw-dropping comment gets made, you’re better prepared to respond thoughtfully and well.
    It works individually, but even more so when we need to do things together. So when we say ‘practice’ we imagine there are lots of opportunities that range from the workplace, to parenting, to any human relationship really.
  • It’s been compared to an athlete training so that his or her body recovers more quickly and performs closer to its peak. CD has been said to create “emotional and relational resiliency in an organization” or a community. “Upsets aren’t as damaging, and our collective capacity is greater.”
  • The catch is you have to practice it.  It’s not a technique or ‘5 tips for quick results!’ It’s like playing golf, the more you do it the better you get. And truth in advertising, you might never become a champion golfer or CD practitioner, but practicing it does make a remarkable difference in people’s lives. It helps you show up and be your best self.

Why does your basic training session last 4 days? Who has time for that?

  • Modern culture and work patterns are hesitant to risk 4 days for learning.  So why do we offer that?  Truthfully because it works, and because it takes folks awhile to slow down enough to notice some of the basic patterns we live out of. The learning goes deep and you leave able to make a difference in settings you care about. No you won’t leave and be able to broker world peace. But when they practice it, people describe a positive ripple effect they have in their workplaces, families and community. Others notice it and comment on it too. Read some of the ‘learning stories’ {hyperlink} others have shared to get a glimpse of what they mean.

Is this a ‘spiritual’ or ‘faith-based’ practice?

  • Only if you choose to make it one. At heart, it’s a human practice that simply helps you do whatever you do better, and with deeper integrity.  It helps you work from your best values.  At no point would the practice suggest what you should believe, and in fact it teaches deep respect for human freedom. That’s why folks from really diverse philosophical, religious and cultural backgrounds find it so helpful.
  • It does help you practice ‘Personal Mastery’, meaning the ability to  relate and work in the ways you aspire to at your best. That is a powerful thing, and touches most of us deeply.  How you describe that experience for yourself is a personal choice.

Is the Centre a faith-based organization?

  • No. The Centre’s mission is to work across cultures and organizations to help people get along better, and to help organizations and communities function better.
    Whenever folks care passionately about something, others will care just as passionately about it but with different opinions. The Centre works to help make those conversations and relationships more productive in whatever setting they occur.

So if it deals with relationships and communication is it some kind of therapy group?

  • Nope.  Not therapy.  While it certainly does improve relationships, it’s because it helps better communication and supports ways of respectfully engaging others (and yourself).

Other questions you’d like to see answered here?  Please let us know. There are no sacred cows or ‘secret truths’ in Contemplative Dialogue. In fact, thoughtful transparency is a value of the practice. Contact us at: info at contemplativedialogue.org