I am a conversationalist. I love to create space in which we can talk for hours, and indulge in meaningful conversation. This week the concept of dialogue has been brought up to me multiple times, and has had me thinking about what it means to create dialogue.
My Sociology of Adult Education course has a great emphasis on classroom discussion and participation. For this to be effective and meaningful we must first know what it takes to create dialogue and how to engage with others correctly from a sociological standpoint. Last week, we started with a segment dedicated to creating dialogue. I have been thinking about it ever since.
Maybe it was already on my mind, because I had an amazing conversation with one of the students that I advise, or maybe it’s because I am a natural communicator, storyteller, and lover of words. I am not sure, but this segment of class resonated with me.
We discussed how the three pillars of successful, effective, and meaningful dialogue are Love, Humility, and Faith. Creating rich dialogue and conversation with others requires a great deal of these three things. Let me break it down for you.
Love: To engage someone in conversation-I mean conversation, not small talk…anyone can engage in small talk…and I HATE small talk. Let’s get deep, people!-you must express love to them.
Love is a commitment to others-I am not talking physical, or sexual love, but emotional love-and being vulnerable enough to share, and discuss things of importance and meaning is an act of committing yourself to someone. This takes shape in many situations: first dates, job interviews, shared taxi’s, and with the person sitting next to you in class. Think about how you met your best friend. It probably started with small talk or a shared interest, but with more meaningful conversation, you realize that you care deeply for this person, you connect with them, you love them, and this friendship is a commitment that you’ve made.
Love is an act of bravery. You must have the confidence and willingness to make the first move, open up, start the dialogue. It’s the reason why we talk about weather and have awkward moments with the people we don’t know very well or care much about. We don’t show bravery for those we don’t love. If you’re brave enough to let your guard down and to love the people you interact with you are brave enough to engage in dialogue.
Humility: Dialogue requires more than just showing love to the person/people you’re engaging with. It requires more than the bravery and vulnerability that it takes to open up to someone. It requires humility. You must truly listen to those you’re engaging with as well. You must set yourself aside for a moment and listen to everything that they have to say. If you are listening with arrogance or the sole purpose of responding, the dialogue will not happen. It will be a one-sided conversation, or it will end in small talk. You will not grow from this interaction, you will not gain meaning from it. Dialogue requires two or more people who are willing to listen to those that they’re engaging with, and to listen-truly listen-and learn from your partner you must have humility.
Faith: The third pillar of dialogue is faith. You can only create dialogue with someone if you have faith that it will go somewhere. You must set aside your differences, biases, judgement, and doubts and have faith in humankind. Dialogue requires that you have faith in creating conversation, re-creating conversation, and learning as you go. It means making mistakes, tripping over your words, getting choked up, and still having faith that the conversation isn’t dead. Faith is all about trusting that even when the conversation is tough or leads somewhere unexpected, that it will yield growth and maturity, that you’ll learn from this experience, and it will lead you to a closer relationship with those you’re chatting with and knowing that when it goes sour-because faith also means being critical at times-it’s OK.
These three pillars are so important to my work as a Student Affairs professional-as well as in all other fields-and in moving from small talk and casual conversation to meaningful dialogue. They’re the reasons why I love working with students. They allow me to get to know the students that I work with. They help me to share my story and to encourage my students to do the same. Love, humility, and faith are the reasons why I am able to create horizontal dialogue with my students and in turn build relationships and connections with them. It all happens through courageous conversation aka dialogue.
Anyway, I’ve been thinking about how I engage in dialogue over the past week and really concentrating on how I converse with those around me and what I am communicating to them. Am I building dialogue? Am I allowing my students to feel comfortable creating dialogue with me?
Today, is Valentines Day and since love is one of the three pillars of creating dialogue, I thought I would share some of my thoughts. It’s also the perfect day to express to the ones you care about how you feel about them.
I challenge you all to have love, humility, and faith, and tell someone you care today. It doesn’t have to be someone you’re romantically interested in, just someone you deeply care about. Express your love for them, and start building a world of healthy dialogue.
Big love to you all today,