The Power Of Dialogue
"Change happens by listening and then starting a dialogue with the people who are doing something you don't believe is right." Jane Goodall
"Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger." James 1:19
As leaders, we are in the communication business: working to explain, convince, encourage, define, and motivate. And remember people need to hear the same message in different ways multiple times before it is completely understood. This is where dialogue aids a leader. For example, when a leader communicates a message, they may never know how much of it is understood. Yet when they speak and take the time after for dialogue they usually discover the truth about human comprehension - a message was communicated but perhaps was not fully understood. So what becomes essential to a leader is directed dialogue, so that listeners can ask pressing questions and the communicator can further interpret and provide a clear and concise application. So here are three reasons speaking combined with dialogue are important when delivering messages.
Three reasons for dialogue.
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One | Preparing a better talk is not the solution.
No matter how well you prepare and deliver a message, your listeners will miss important nuances. You cannot anticipate every question that an audience will have. You cannot address every need of an employee, volunteer, or leader. You cannot deliver a message that will touch on every possible application. In dialogue, you can bridge these gaps by allowing people to ask questions that fill out the message. And when you discover these understanding gaps where the message was not met with clarity, you have an opportunity to both provide specific clarity and potentially improve the talk and delivery for the future. This is why leaders who engage in dialogue become more skilled at communication and getting to know their audiences better than others.
Two | People hear differently.
Yes, everyone, that means everybody, hears a message a little differently. Dialogue takes this into account - different learning styles, cultural nuances, and team dynamics. Some people who are increasingly good at hearing and synthesizing information will understand you when you explain it the first time. Others need to hear your message, ideas, concepts, and process from a variety of viewpoints until the core message is wholly comprehended. Still, others are more pragmatic and need real-life examples in their context so that they can support and implement the message they have heard. All of these are possible when you move from "speaking to" and "dialoguing with" your audience. This is because a dialogue allows for the real-time interpretation that gives way for a more accurate application.
Three | Messages will be met with resistance.
Dialogue is preferred when you anticipate resistance. This gives a leader a good read on the level of resistance to a new concept or a way of doing things. The questions asked and the attitudes revealed will inform you of how others are responding to the communication and the impact it may have on the organization, customers, themselves, and the people they lead. Dialogue is also helpful when you know someone voices an objection, as a great leader will be receptive to hearing voices of opposition and prepared to respond calmly, caringly, and yet with certainty on the fly. And in a public dialogue, everyone can listen to the questions and concerns with immediate responses so that opposition can be hopefully appeased and company morale attained. In other words, dialogue helps the messenger sometimes as much as it helps the listener. You may even hear suggestions that if incorporated in your thinking would strengthen your future together.
Whenever possible engage in both delivery a message and give time to invite dialogue, rather than simply telling people what to do, combine the two, and you will increase your influence with those you lead.
Vince Miller is a speaker, author, and mentor to men. He is an authentic and transparent leader who loves to communicate to audiences on the topics of mentorship, fathering, leadership and manhood. He has authored 13 books and small group curriculum for men and is the primary content creator of all Resolute materials. Contact Vince Miller here. His newest book is Thirty Virtues That Build A Man.