The practice of suspending is critical to effective leadership and building collaborative, coherent, innovative team cultures.
Everyone holds assumptions, opinions, beliefs or judgments. This is a normal part of how human beings filter perception and make sense of the world. However, these often inhibit open communication, create distrust, cause conflict, stifle creativity, and block understanding.
In the practice of suspending, participants are invited to at least temporarily suspend or let go of assumptions, beliefs or certainty about things and open up to understanding other possibilities, viewpoints, experiences or ideas. Dialogue is not about convincing others of your views, but with curiosity, attempting to clarify, connect and understand others. In the practice of opening your mind, you may come to knowing yourself better too.
Some tips for suspending:
To respect means that you accept others for whom they really are, even when they are different from you, or you don't agree with them. In the practice of respecting:
In Dialogue, we practice noticing where our voice is coming from, and developing our capacity to more consistently use authentic voice. Voice is core to leadership. A good leader knows when and how to use their own voice, but more importantly opens the space of listening so that others find theirs.
The practice of finding authentic voice is an essential, but complex and nuanced journey. Because of past conditioning and habits of communication, people are often not aware of where their voice is coming from or the impact it has. It can show up in power-over or victim patterns. It can be suppressed, scattered, manipulative, or dominating. True power, connection and positive impact is found in finding and connecting to authentic voice and trusting it.
In Dialogue, practice noticing where your own voice is coming from and making choices to change its vibration for greater clarity and positive impact. For example:
Building the capacity to listen is perhaps the most important practice of all. In western cultures and organizations, deep listening is not a well-developed skill and yet it has the power to transform our world.
In Bohm Dialogue group, you'll be doing far more listening than speaking. You are invited to listen to learn.
Listening happens on several levels. In the Dialogue, you are invited to practice and develop capacities to listen deeper for higher learning and broader perspective. For example, in the Theory U model, there are 4 levels of listening, each being more open and present:
Participants are invited to agree to 'practices' for the Dialogue. It is a 'practice', because most people are not skilled in Dialogue and fall into old polarizing habits or ineffective communication patterns. In open Dialogue participants are invited to develop new healthier communication skills, but at times will get off track, hopefully 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. A summary of the 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.
Over a span of 25 years, David Bohm spent a considerable amount of time in conversation with the famous philosopher and teacher, Jiddu Krisnamurti. From Bohm's experience of these conversations, David Bohm proposed a powerful, free flowing way of dialoguing where people practice experiencing everyone's point of view fully, equally and non-judgmentally in order to reach common understanding.
Bohm felt that open dialogue could help us solve the many crises that face society and expand human consciousness. Indeed, in a world where polarized, fear and domination-based communication is the norm, Bohm dialogue gives us a simple structure to elevate the way we relate to ourselves, each other and the world, preparing the ground for deeper learning, connection and collaboration.