|Can you say more about that?||April 22, 1999|
To learn to ride a bicycle, you can profit from reading about bicycle mechanics and construction, and about the skills involved in riding a bicycle. But to really learn to ride it, you have to ride it. Just so, as we set out to learn more about dialoguing we realized we could profit from reading about it, and we did so. But we seek not just to learn about it, but to learn it. We still have our training wheels on, but we have made progress toward both related goals.
We intend to provide you, the reader, with introductory material about dialogue. But we also want to report our own experiences in dialoguing about dialogue. We found this process different from riding a bicycle. At times we had the feeling of trying to touch a finger tip with the same finger tip. As John Peters has said, we attempted to see ourselves seeing ourselves. We could have gotten caught up in endlessly interconnected iterations, like the experience of standing between two mirrors on opposite walls that reflect each other into infinity. You, of course, in reading this are reading about our dialogue as well as dialogue in general. We hope it will help you to adjust your own training wheels. For those already far more advanced than us, perhaps it will offer a fresh view as you glide in your own freewheeling dialogues.
Each of us picked someone we considered to be a formative influence in the current literature on dialogue (except for one member who agreed to provide the philosophical overview for a sort of seedbed from which the others spring). We individually examined their writings, wrote about them, and then shared those writings with each other. Our writings then provided a focal point for our own dialogue about dialogue. We kept notes as we dialogued--part of our attempt to see ourselves seeing ourselves.
This paper opens with the overview, along with a graphic timeline that will help the reader see how significant ideas relate to each other. Next we have an examination of David Bohm's ideas, followed by chapters on those whose ideas grew from the fertile loam of Bohm: William Isaacs, Peter Senge, and Robert Hargrove. Finally, we have a chapter on our own process as we attempted to synergize our knowledge and understanding of dialogue. It includes stories of our own prior experiences with dialogue to illustrate various facets of ideas about dialogue.