Typology of 12 complementary dialogue modes
essential to sustainable dialogue
- / -
adaptation and development from related tables on Typology
of 12 complementary strategies essential to sustainable development,
and on Characteristics
of phases in 12-phase learning / action cycles -- both derived from
Arthur Young's Geometry
of Meaning (1978). See commentary on learning cycles in
Cycles of dissonance
and resonance and below. See also alternative
table based on clustering strategies and values.
Getting facts "straight"
Developing line of argument
Adaptive accomodation of
Selective exclusion of points
Initiating new line of argument
Opening new dialogue front
Verification of condition
of the other
do you feel about that?")
Making points to which affective
meaning is attached
Points of significance
Speaking from the heart
Expression of concern
with line of argument
Persuasive force of dialogue
Framing collective action
Determining dialogue processes
Consolidating variety of tendencies
("walking the talk";
"guts"; "being there")
Affirmation of belief
Confirmation of worldview
Recognition of common ground
Demonstrating meaning thru
Deciding moment in dialogue
Moment of recognition of
Readjusting beliefs in face
of new understanding
Change of mind
Applied transformative insight
Rows: These distinguish between the 12 dialogue types based on
(1) knowledge of issues, (2) concern for issues, and (3) "being there"
-- where the issues are hurting.
Row 1 dialogues are primarily intellectual and detached from reality
"on the ground" or "in the field", even if they are obliged to take account
of it. The stress is on making "points" and establishing "lines" of argument.
A "concern" barrier must be passed to get into Row 2 dialogues.
Row 2 dialogues are concerned with, or involved with, grounded reality
-- but without "being there". The emphasis is on affective significance,
possibly irrelevant to any conceptual framework. A "grounding" barrier
must be passed to get into Row 3 dialogues.
Row 3 dialogues are identified with grounded or lived reality in
some way. The emphasis is on praxis. A "comprehension" barrier must be
passed to get into Row 1 dialogues (repeating the learning cycle within
a larger framework) .
These distinguish between the 12 dialogue types based on
(A) acknowledging issues, (B) responding to issues, (C) acting on issues,
and (D) sustaining action on issues.
Column A dialogues primarily identify and interrelate issues (sensing
them); an "intention" barrier must be passed to get into Column B dialogues.
Column B dialogues develop intentions with respect to issues (notably
concerning the dialogue itself). There is a dis-identification with the
status quo perspectives reinforced by Column A. An "action" barrier must
be passed to get into Column C dialogues.
Column C dialogues emphasize engagement in action (notably within
the dialogue itself). There is now an active distancing from the status
quo perspectives. A "continuity" barrier must be passed to get into Column
D dialogues where the action can be rendered sustainable.
Column D dialogues ensure that action is controlled and maintained
knowledgeably (notably with respect to the dialogue itself). The dialogue
process is continually questioned. There is attentiveness to feedback loops
and checks and balances amongst complementary styles to ensure dialogue
integrity over time. A "contextual" barrier, recognizing new feedback loops,
must be passed to get into Column A dialogues (repeating the learning
cycle within a larger framework).
Each of the 12 dialogue types has a vital function. The challenge is that
their complementarity is not necessarily recognized. Certain dialogue types
are easily neglected, notably those in Row 3 and those in Column D. Because
of its lower "dimensionalty", it tends to be easier to engage in dialogue
A1, for example -- which is coded with the lightest colour in the table.
The current challenge is to give meaning and force to dialogues of type
D3, that correspond to sustainable dialogue
-- which is coded the darkest
in the table.
The colour coded diagonals suggest a pattern of progressive engagement
towards sustainable action "on the ground":
Diagonal A1: Fact-finding and point-making dialogue, frequently
used as a preliminary to any other dialogue, whether relating to massacres
or environmental disasters. Response to many issues is often limited to
this, notably by the academic community.
Diagonal A2-B1: Dialogues involving acknowledgment of issues
and adaptive response to them (notably within the dialogue process itself).
This has little effect "on the ground" but administrative and intellectual
frameworks and procedures may be adjusted to take account of the issues.
Such dialogues may be considered typical of what are characterized as the
Diagonal A3-B2-C1: Dialogues provide space for: evoking empathy
concering the issue, confirming the appropriateness of current value systems,
official warnings and calls for action, and initiation of patterns of response.
This is typical of responses by the international community / media / local
activist complex. New issues, including potential genocides, notably evoke
dialogues of type B2, namely expression of deep concern, by the international
community -- possibly accompanied by efforts at initiating fresh dialogue
(type C1), but without significant follow-up.
Diagonal B3-C2-D1: Concerns expressed in dialogues on the preceding
diagonal may lead to dialogues of type B3, namely some form of collective
resolution or decision -- as is typical of bodies such as the UN
Security Council. During dialogues of these types, typical of the diplomatic
community or groups of concerned citizens at their best, decisions are
taken, persuasive arguments are forcefully presented, and new dialogue
structures are set up. This may be framed as effecting change, but this
form of implementation typically lends itself to positive reporting on
the meaningfulness or effectiveness of the dialogue, or on the action taken
-- with little awareness of whether this is effective "on the ground" or
in changing significantly the dialogue process itself..
Diagonal C3-D2: In these dialogues, enforcement becomes evident
"on the ground" and in the dialogue process. Coordination is ensured with
respect to the continuity of the implementation process and management
of disagreement. Unfortunately the engagement is such that the "continuity"
is essentially short-term and tends to be eroded and abandoned once attention
passes to other issues. This is typical of many responses to issues that
are momentarily in the public eye or in a dialogue process.
Diagonal D3: In this type of dialogue, action becomes sustainable
through building in procedures that guarantee long-term continuity based
on appropriate attention to feedback loops. However any such form of grounded,
sustainable action is itself challenged by unforeseen issues and feedback
loops that may call for new kinds of issue detection and monitoring (Diagonal
There are various diagonals across the table:
The previous paragraph privileges the emergence of sustainable dialogue
moving through the diagonals from A1 to D3. The builds from detached point-making
in A1. It emphasizes the emergence of self-organization and highlights
the challenges of Column D in giving space to disagreement seen as necessarily
fundamental and vital.
It is important to recognize an alternative tendency favouring the shift
from D1 across diagonals to A3. This approach is much more common. It privileges
recognition of common ground. Here the approach is to start from some form
of controlled dialogue in D1 -- as is characteristic of heavily facilitated
processes. The emphasis is on agreement. Disagreement is seen as necessarily
superficial or misguided.
Consideration could also be given to movement in the reverse directions
in each of the above cases
of each dialogue type necessarily also exist.
These are suggested by column labels at the foot of the table.
Meeting participation: It is also fruitful to see each of the
12 dialogue types as reflecting the complementary views that need to be
expressed at an archetypal strategic "roundtable" (Camelot style). The
specific relationships between each such view have been tentatively explored
in an earlier study on Toward a New Order of Meeting Participation
that charts the Shadowy Roundtable Hidden within every Meeting. This
endeavours to show how the seemingly "external" issues tend to be reflected
in the different behaviour styles of meeting participants -- and the need
for a new kind of participant contract to move beyond such constraints.
Torus representation: As implied above, the Row 1 dialogues can
also usefully be considered as bordering the Row 3 dalogues -- by rolling
the table into a cylinder. Similarly the Column A dialogues can also be
considered as bordering the Column D dialogues -- by connecting the ends
of the cylinder to form a torus. It is on the surface of this torus that
the connectivities between the dialogue types might be more appropriately
comprehended. A possible representation of this structure, appropriately
coloured, has been developed as a hypersphere to illustrate Arthur Young's
Individual action: The relevance of the above typology can also
be explored in relation to individual or community group dialogue. The
status of a "New Year's Resolution" with respect to personal sustainable
development is then clarified -- and demonstrates the nature of the challenge
for international organizations inspired by its many Resolutions.