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Dialogue: A term and practice we invoke
when we already recognize different
viewpoint and ideas.
Debate vs Dialogue
• Debate presumes winning and losing.
• Debate does not seek understanding,
common ground or compromise.
• Debate is for influencing minds of others.
• Debate is the common model in our culture
for exploring varying viewpoints.
• The roots of the word dialogue come from the Greek
words dia and logos.
• dia means “through”
• logos translates to “word” or “meaning.”
• In essence, a dialogue is a flow of meaning.
• The purpose of
dialogue is to create
‘shared meaning’ or
coherence in a group.
• The challenge of
dialogue is to simply
allow multiple points of
view to be.
Social Ethos: Hierarchy
• Distinct social classes
• Absolute authority by rank and gender
• Slavery a possible outcome of war for
members at any level.
• Rule of obedience
• Moderated by popular
nomination and selection
• Local rather than central
• Rome (city) was weak
• Tension between local
bishops & nobility
• First, for the voice of God
– In Scripture
– In the needs of others
– In the voices of those around
• Those who take the place of Christ
– The Abbot / Prioress
– The pilgrim
– The sick and the aged
• Mutual obedience = mutual listening
Porter: Chapter 66
• Wise person
• "Knows how to take
and to give one."
• Scripted dialogue
"Thanks be to God"
"Please give your
Summoning Monks for Counsel
• Unique to Benedict's Rule
• Listen even to youngest / newest
• "Do everything with counsel and you will
not afterwards repent of it."
• Chapter 36: Care of the sick
– Served as Christ himself
– Sick should not "sadden …
with superfluous demands."
– "Patiently borne"
• Chapter 31: The Cellarer
– Deal with unreasonable
– Distribute what is allocated
– Appropriate hours for requests
Dialogue in Dispute
• Chapter 3
– Not to contend harshly with the
– Neither inside or outside monastery
• Chapter 68
– Impossible things
– What do we mean by impossible?
– Dialogue assures that both
are known to both parties
– Authority still rests with the superior
• Grew from works of Thomas Merton as
well as contemporary organization theory
• Connects the prayerful and listening
stance of the monastic with the needs of
discussion when views are different.
Awareness of Thoughts
• Assumptions and beliefs
color the way we see
and understand the
actions of others.
• Focus on the "data"
helps get past that.
• Awareness of the
ladder of assumptions
helps circumvent it.
Contemplative Dialogue - 1
• Speak slowly: Relax, speak and
listen from an inner attitude of quiet
• Make eye-contact: Maintain a
shared center; remain fully present
in the group.
• Speak briefly: Speak what matters
from your deepest place (your
contemplative center) then STOP.25
Contemplative Dialogue - 2
• Create shared meaning: Build on
what has already been shared when
• Listen deeply: Let the words
disappear by pausing and returning
to inner silence.
• Stay curious: ask questions to the
group as a way to explore differences
and limit assumptions
Contemplative Dialogue - 3
• Remain open: Speak with vulnerability,
not righteousness allowing for different
versions of the same reality
• Be accepting: hold the tension of
someone with an opposing point of
view without reacting to it.
• Hold your own understandings lightly,