Dialogue is thinking about something with two minds instead of one.
Dialogue is talking to someone else the way you talk to yourself. You never get mad at yourself when you’re talking to yourself. You never lose patience or try to pretend to know things that you don’t actually know.
Willingness to engage in dialogue implies a willingness to learn, but willingness to learn doesn’t imply that you’re ignorant or dumb. I think of myself as knowledge-able and smart, and I know that I have great and important ideas to impart to others, but I’m completely open to dialogue – even with people who know very little and have had little time to develop ideas of their own.
False modesty and false pretentions are equally obstructive to dialogue.
When I say I’m open to dialogue, I mean that I’m open to learning something from a conversation. What I learn doesn’t necessarily come from the other speakers or from their words alone; it may come from the experience as a whole.
It isn’t necessary to feel that you have something to learn from someone in order to have a dialogue. What is necessary is that you are both open to the possibility of learning anything at all.
People who are always learning are always ready to engage in dialogue. People who feel they already know everything or who are afraid to learn cannot engage in dialogue.
Dialogue can only begin among people who respect each other, who know the limits of what they know and don’t know, and who can comfortably acknowledge those limits to each other.
It shouldn’t be thought that “dialogue is wonderful” and “discussion is worthless.” Each has its place. In simplest terms, here is the difference between them:
In dialogue, people are focused on enhancing their understanding.
In discussion, people are focused on airing their views and discovering the views of others, usually in hopes of seeing their views win acceptance.