To reach the depth of learning, understanding and shared meaning that can come from Dialogue, it is important to have enough time and an open, inviting meeting environment. For teams and complex relationships/situations, it is beneficial for the groups to continue meeting on a regular basis for weeks, months or even years, expanding their capacity to think together, trust, and collaborate. Dialogue becomes core to an agile, creative way of working together.
The agenda for a Bohm Dialogue tends to be very simple.
1. Welcome: The Dialogue host welcomes participants, explains the Dialogue practices and shared agreements (such as confidentiality) and invites participants into agreement. If there is a subject or theme for the dialogue, this is clarified.
Participants will generally be invited to sit in a circle and often use a "talking object" to honor and respect the relationship between speaker and listener without interruption.
2. Check-in: Each participant does a brief 'check-in,' introducing themselves if necessary, and 'what is moving or present within them.' This could be a feeling/emotion, and observation, an issue, an opportunity, a question or an experience. Each participant gets about 1 minute for this.
3. Flow: An open Dialogue continues, taking its lead from what emerged in the check-in. Participants follow the flow of the conversation, noticing what they have energy for or what learning, theme or focus is emerging as they speak, listen, think and sense together.
4. Closing: A final round or 'check-out' is conducted where everyone gets an opportunity to briefly share their experience, and what they learned or are taking away from the experience.
Participants are invited to agree to 'practices' for the dialogue. It is a 'practice', because most of us are not skilled in dialogue and fall into old polarizing habits. Together, we will develop our capacity for open dialogue but at times we will get off track, notice this, and come back into the practice. For example, consider the practice of meditation, where your mind may spin off into thinking until you notice this and pull yourself back into watching your breath. Our four Bohm Dialogue practices are:
1. SUSPENDING: Letting go of assumptions, beliefs or certainty about things and opening up to other possibilities, viewpoints, experiences or ideas. This is not about convincing others of your views, but with curiosity, attempting to connect and understand them, and in the process, knowing yourself too.
2. RESPECTING: Seeing and respecting the humanity in others and relating with empathy and compassion to their life journey. By seeing them, you may see yourself more clearly too.
3. VOICING: Discovering your authentic voice and trusting it. This is not about saying something clever or wise. It is about noticing the call within you to speak, or to just respectfully listen and notice that others might be saying exactly what you wanted to say. Speak about only one important idea at a time, rather than talking about all the run-on thoughts arising in you. Less is more. If you or someone is dominating the conversation, notice this and find a way to come back into balanced dialogue.
4. LISTENING: Listen with all your senses and intuition, to the whole person behind the words. You will be listening far more than speaking. With curiosity, hear the tone, cadence, pitch, pauses, movements, meaning, energy, emotions, values and intentions of the speakers. Be present to the beauty and richness of the silent moments too.