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4 principals for good dialogue

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Dialogue is a useful learning tool and helpful in work environment. To use it you need to understand what is dialogue and how to practise a good dialogue. It sounds easy, but it is more complex that it seems.

What is dialogue?

Dialogue can be defined by looking at the origin of the word, the classical definition or modern definition. But the most known definition for this word is that it means a conversation between at-least two people.

The origin of the word comes in Greece words “dia” meaning through and “logos” meaning word or meaning. Combining these words and their meaning together, dialogue literally means acting through a word/words or going through meanings.

The classical definition for dialogue is that it’s an aid tool for thinking. Practising it in Socrates way of asking and answering questions on the topic to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out new perspectives.

Modern definition for dialogue is a lot difference from the classical definition. The modern definition defines dialogue to be a social and psychological activity in which participants together try to move towards a better understanding. It highlights the importance of the participants equality and the equal value in all the aspects (Holm, Poutanen & Ståhle 2018.)

The definition of the dialogue is needed to understand the purpose of it and why it is used. With the definition you are able to distinguish it from other ways of conversation.

The four principals to good dialogue

To practise good dialogue the participants need to practise four practices; speaking your true voice and encouraging others to do the same, listening as a participant, respecting the coherence of others` views and suspending your certainties (Isaacs 2008). These are important qualities and important part of good dialogue.

Speaking your true voice and encouraging others to do the same

It is important that when we practise meaningful dialogue that we are able to give our honest opinion and we can trust others to do the same. Because when we speak from our hearth the words have more meaning for us and we care more for the respond and reaction on them. We let ourselves to be vulnerable and courage others to do the same with our example. Honest opinions and comments builds trust and you can feel the conversation to be genuine. It is better than holding your opinions and thoughts to yourself and agreeing on everything. Because when doing so you do not give anything new or more and serve as a neutral body.

Listening as a participant

Focus on what is being said and to receiving the information that is said. Often times people are eager to speak their take on the subject and forget to listen the other side and what they have to say about it. To listen like a participant can most easily explain in a way that imagine you are to play a game, for you to understand how to play you need to listen to the rules carefully, so you know what is allowed and what is not relevant to the game. Based on the rules of the game you are able to play and come up with a strategy . In the same sense you can’t really understand the conversation without listening and processing the information others speak in dialogue. Based on their opinions and views you can provide relevant points of your own and practise a better dialogue.

Respecting the coherence of others’ views

Respect means according to Cambridge university: “admiration felt or shown for someone or something that you believe has good ideas or qualities”. In dialogue this respect is shown in a way of valuing others opinions and views and not critizising or ignoring them. By practicing respect in a dialogue you are required to keep an open mind for what is said.

Suspending your certainties

To go into the dialogue without expectation nor beliefs. Like in respecting others and their opinion, suspending your certainties advices you to put your personal attitudes, beliefs, biases and assumptions on hold for the sake of the conversation. It means to be humble and silent your ego. You don’t give up on your individual opinions or beliefs, but make room for other ideas and ways of thinking (Jorgensen 2018.)

By practising these four principals of dialogue, you are able to increase the quality of your dialogue with others and make them feel respected and trusted. It is important to give time for dialogue to happen and it to grow better in the team. But if team has the same idea of a good dialogue and are willing to practise for it, you are able to create value in different areas.


There is many tools you can use to practise better dialogue or to increase trust and safe environment or to manage efficient problem solving through dialogue. One way is to practise dialogue with the help of visuality (Karkama & Siefen 2019). In this practise your group is given a topic or question to work with. Example how do you feel about your future. Participants are now introduced with the topic and will next asked to think about their answer. To help people analyze their answer and to make it easier for others to understand, participants are asked to draw/visualize their thoughts into paper. When they have this picture they are asked to explain their thoughts to the other participants with the help of the picture. This way you have to analyze your thoughts and make them make sense to you and you get a visual tool to help you when explaining the thought to others.


Dialogue is powerful way of sharing and solving ideas and problems when it is done good. To practise good dialogue you should know how to speak from your heart, listen, respect and silent your ego. They can be hard in the beginning but with time it will pay off. With practising these four principal you will grow trust and safe environment. Luckily there is many tools to help with different parts of dialogue to make it better.


Holm R. Poutanen P. & Ståhle P. 2018. Mikä tekee dialogin: Dialogisen vuorovaikutuksen tunnuspiirteet ja edellytykset. Sitra.

Isaacs W. N. 2008. Dialogic Leadership. The Systems Thinker 10.

Jorgensen R. 2018. Suspend certainty for breaktrough ideas, results. Linkedin.

Karkama A. & Siefan H. 2019. #3 Dialogin avulla parempaa oppimista ja itsetuntemusta. Oppimisen psykologia podcast. Spotify.

Pelkonen M. 2020. Dialogi ja yhdessä ajattelemisen taito. Esseepankki.

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