Dialog: The Starting Point, The Common Ground

One of my gifts from blogging is the joy of knowing Bhavana Nissima, a sentiment shared, I am certain, by all who have known her. All. I love her distinctive approach to things we see around us. Her posts question what we take for granted, yet in a very gentle, non-confrontational way.

When we announced a blogger's meet in Hyderabad in 2012, she caught a bus (after missing her train) and came to encourage us all the way from Chennai. Her posts blend social responsibility with her personal quest, with her commitment to reclaiming the feminine and with quiet moments of self disclosure. The result is a fine tapestry of thoughts and feelings (and a lot of facts) that reaches far beyond the individual and showcases what we as a people are truly capable of. This also comes through in photography illustrating her posts (as well as on her photography blog, Photobhavna).

Bhavana embodies the belief that concern by itself, unaccompanied by action, is of little value. In this guest post, she sheds light on the very essence of the journey from conflict to wholeness - Dialog. Before my introduction becomes longer than the post itself, over to Bhavana.

*****

I began this piece the day after the Hyderabad bomb blasts, sitting in an office not far from Dilsukh Nagar—the site of the blasts. In some, there was anger, in some, helplessness, in some, a real physical pain, a loss, and for others life went on— “lite teesko” as they kept reminding me.

A stream of fresh air blew through the crack in the window reminding me to think afresh, anew and to think of dialog again. Yes, even now.


You see when folks think of the word dialog, they think of two people sitting together, in a polite, civil manner, talking soft sweet words to each other, listening and comprehending and that after sometime folks come to an understanding--a consensus.

What is the use of dialog when we are speaking in chorus? What is the use of dialog when we are already in agreement? When what is at stake is not important enough? When memories don’t hurt enough? When values are not deeply rooted enough?

Dialog when you believe that a dialog is impossible. And here is how. Not a full and a sure how. But a “thereabouts” how.

Pre-Dialog

Dialog begins within yourself first. This is the toughest area of dialog.

1. Dialog is sometimes not even with a person or a community—it may happen with a book or an idea or a faith. It is not so much an “inter” process as it is an “intra” process.

2. If you are psychologically or materially invested in the issue, you have to develop an emotional distance from the topic, a process I call as “disidentification.” Identify ways in which the issues prick you and ponder on their roots. Then disidentify by mindfully observing the thoughts that course through your mind and work on being still.


3. Journal/talk aloud/paint/dance/sing or whatever till you are ready to sit for a dialog. It will not happen overnight, not even in a week or a month. Sometimes months, sometimes years. No quick fix. But you have to understand that if you want to contribute to a safer, healthier, more peaceful society—what you are doing is crucial for that to happen. True dialog happens between individuals and communities who have spent a long time dialoging with themselves.

4. Compassionately place the other in your shoes / chappal / bare feet. Think of their well-being. Think of the world as an interdependent network where everyone needs to evolve, where one person/community’s fall will impede the progress of others. But give up your sense of how the world needs to progress. It is beyond you and me. The universe has its own intelligence which we partake and participate in. Progress is communally defined and implemented.

5. If you are spiritual, hold the world and all beings as sacred—each having meaning and reason for existence. Even when it hurts to do so, respect that existence. You don’t need to rush to forgive. You do need to slowly pry yourself open for that to happen. You see, the site of conflict is not between two people or two communities. It is right in your heart.



During Dialog with Person/Community

1. If you enter a dialog with the assumption that the person must/needs to be as ready for the dialog as you are—you are not ready yet. Dialog doesn’t need all parties to be in a state of peace. Just one party is enough to bring down the defences. Unconditional respect for the sacredness of the other party is all you need.

2. Listen, listen with your heart. Communication emerges in dialog from deep listening. It ceases to be a reaction, it becomes a response.

3. When the other party engages you in what seems as debate, do not try to pulverize their point of view (PoV). Understand this-- most folks attach their identity and self-worth to their PoV and feel threatened when that is attacked. Ease them out. Affirm and validate their stand. Once they relax, they are more willing to listen to you. Sometimes the effect is instantaneous. Sometimes it takes time. Sometimes it will not happen for a long time, in which case you wait for the turnaround.

4. Avoid judging the person, judge the act or consequences or product. Every person is complete whether you realize it or not. At a certain point in time, it is possible a certain set of traits that may be discomforting or disgusting to you emerges, but in essence, you are reacting to the traits. Tell yourself-- even a weed has a place in the world. You have to unflinchingly search for goodness in the moment.

5. Instead of making definitive and absolute statements, try stating it as a logical or evidence based deduction that is open to revisions. If you have already decided your point of view is alone correct, then no point in wasting your time in a dialog--you are simply persuading your case. This post is not for you. If that is not the case, then learn the art of present your view in an open, friendly manner.

6. Some folks mistake dialog to be compromise or some kind of soft approach. It is not. It is the deepest possible communication that one soul can engage in with another that leads to discovery and growth. Relentlessly pursue that which is most compassionate for all concerned that gives maximum benefit to all concerned. Do not sacrifice your needs, your beliefs. You are sacred and important too.

Dialog oftentimes is not about solution. It is about acceptance and about being at peace, of being peace. No more.




44 comments:

  1. Lots of stuff to chew here. It seems like I never did understand the process of dialog completely. Another problem I see is that due to social media, we often find ourselves engaged in conversations with total strangers, friends of friends, that we absolutely know nothing about. In this situation, having any conversation on any issue is a blind alley.

    And about the guest poster, Bhavana is a joy to know as a person. We had a tiff too but sorted it out. And I feel for her as a sister, sometimes protective, at other times like a friend or even a follower. She impresses me with her depth of thought and her gentle, non-confrontational approach that I would love to imbibe some day. Yes, blogging is special because of people like her and you as well, Subhorup! Thank you for this insightful post. I will re-read it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dialog, I find, is first and foremost an inner process. So at some level it transcends with whom or where we dialog. The question is what is the trigger, where misunderstanding occurs and how to resolve it, first and foremost in our minds.

      Thanks for those warm words--I am most touched with the phrase "sometimes protective." Women protecting each other brings a certain joy and certain comfort in my heart. Thank you.

      Delete
  2. Dialog is opening up our hearts for a free flow of communication and understanding. Beautiful, Bhavana!

    Shankari

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Shankari and yes, it is first and foremost opening out hearts!

      Delete
  3. So many takeaways from this post...especially for someone like me who launches into heated debates at the drop of the hat.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Debate is interesting, isn't it? How we attach in our sense of self-worth to it rather than a quest for truth?

      Delete
    2. Honored to have you here, DayTripper. Your writing on music is among the finest I have read in recent times. Hope you keep coming back to SJD.

      Delete
  4. What photographs, Subho!!! Perfect for each thought transition...thanks for enriching the piece...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your post makes the pics more meaningful, Bhavana. It is as if they were waiting for this post to happen. :)

      Delete
  5. I love the last line - Dialog is about acceptance and being at peace. I think all of us need to contemplate, introspect and get into a dialog with self. I think an inner dialog becomes instrumental in solving a lot of problems !
    Very thought provoking post Bhavana !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Ruchira! Yes, I think the most important dialog is an ongoing one with our own self. The more we are at peace the less the outside world makes us mad, makes us troubled. But it is not an overnight process--a very slow one but beautiful nevertheless.

      Delete
  6. Bhavana..I am reading you for the first time and find that you have such clear perception about things and people. I have recently been in a round of dialogues with someone close and have let my anger and my hurt take over the dialogue. Will remember your tips.

    This was a very thought provoking post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aah Vinita--I have done it too several times--anger, jealousy, hurt, pain all ruining what could have been a lovely dialog to reach at the truth. But then this is what I realize--I need to step back and rework on myself and then step back in again, more easy, more ready and more welcoming.

      Delete
  7. A wonderful post Bhavana and beautiful pictures. Peace within us can be felt , while having dialogue with acceptance. A rare trait in general public. A lifetime of " Thavam"(not penance - could not get the right English word, please) for those who strive for it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. True Pattu..for me life is becoming a continuous dialog--between the inner calls and the outer urges...dialog to me is spirituality in the finest sense of the term--a process of reaching perfect communication.

      Delete
  8. I feel dialogue or group discussions need a high degree of communication skills: Perhaps our schools can start teaching us the importance of gathering relevant information, improving our listening skills, not digging in or scoring points off each other before we start talking. Perhaps our teachers could first learn to be skillful at mediating or presiding over these as, without the skills of a good convener, the dialogue or discussion could easily veer totally off point and be of no use to anyone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I studied the tradition in which skills and management are given pre-eminence. But I have realized it is not skills but inner cleansing, inner peace that allows a skill to fruition. My favorite memory is meeting a top Non-violent communication trainer and he spent 30 mins mostly bragging about himself, never even bothering to know my name although I was accompanying him from airport to his venue of workshop. I asked myself what use of the skill if you cannot recognize the human before you. So nah, what I think is teachers should teach mindfulness to students, give adequate "quiet time" and teach the art of self-reflection. That silence will improve all forms of communication.

      Delete
  9. Subho, you are so right about Bhavana. If I could be an ounce of what and who she is, I think I'd be a better person. She truly has been a wonderful gift via her words. A gift I am hoping to unravel in person sometime soon.

    Bhavana, this post could pretty much be a legacy passed down to generations. You summed it so well when you said conflict is never between people and communities, but in the heart. And to have an open dialog means to be at peace................being peace. What a great start to the day. God bless you. And in case you already don't know...........I heart you.

    PS :Subho, loved the pics.....each one has just engraved the post and it's meaning deeper into the soul. Thank you for this!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Blogwati G!!! I hope to see you soon too and in case you dont know, I heart you too, in my own way:)
      Yes, the seat of the worst form of civil war happens in the silence of our minds and hatred brews in hearts. Just that inner care will change our external outlook greatly, won't it?

      Delete
  10. Hi Shubh,
    Thanks for the Guest post,
    Well written piece. These
    days due to the lack of dialog
    many things are still un-settled.
    Thanks Bhavan and Shubh,
    A request to Shub, kindly increase
    the font size, and ha, when you post
    a guest post insert a pic of the Guest :-)
    A to Z Challenge count down began still
    there is time to join in
    Here is the link:
    Have a wonderful time of blogging.
    Good Wishes
    Keep in touch
    I am
    Phil @ Philipscom
    An ambassador to A to Z Challenge @ Tina's Life is Good
    And My Bio-blog

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Ariel...I am glad you found it useful!

      Delete
  11. That is the essence of all conflict, is it not? That people get fixed into their own world-view, their own value systems and refuse to believe that any rightness can exist in an alternative. Yes, any real communication can only come about when we first open out our hearts to acceptance - so easy to identify the cause, so difficult to achieve. Yet, as in all other things worth achieving, that is an effort that needs doing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. True, Suresh--very hard to walk the talk--which is why a true dialog, that begins with oneself takes years to achieve. Dialog is not to "look or appear" dialogic to others, it is a honest-to-god process within yourself which takes its own twists and turns.

      Delete
  12. This is what I admire this woman for. When most of us are emotional and passionate about a cause, some to the point of fanaticism, she comes along and forces us to look within ourselves. Reading your post, there's a long long way for me to go - but I do know that I have come a little way too. So rightly said - disidentification needed - it's difficult to think logically and calmly when you're emotionally vested in something. But easier said than done :(

    And yes, all 6 points about the Dialog with community - is there a way to store it away word for word in the brain? :) so I can pull it up whenever needed :) Dialog is about acceptance and about peace. Beautiful post Bhavana. And thank you for sharing Subhorup!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL, Deepa--kya karen, toda hatke nahin likhe to no USP na -:) hahahaha--jokes aside, I do believe most if not all of our problems are inside. This morn mom was reminding of Ramana Maharishi's quip to folks who would pour in their problems--Chuma Ira--Stay Quiet. Powerful two words...

      Delete
  13. As usual a very sensible and insightful post from you, Bhavna.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks TF...it took many years of mistakes and anger to come here. The art of being gentle with a steel, no-nonsense heart, the practical with the ideal is a difficult balance. Dialog is the way...

      Delete
  14. Dialogue.. the most intricate but delicate part... Isn't it
    we unknowingly do so much work on it. It's like some mind exercise... Sometimes we stretch and sometimes we pull here n there... in the end the objective is to articulate the thoughts brewing in your head..

    interesting read !!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is a mind exercise, Jyoti! It is even more a heart exercise!

      Delete
  15. Great post Bhavana, I always admire your writing and you always bring up pertinent points. Thank you SDG for this guest post. Cheers to all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Sandeep for the boost! I ask myself often--why do we blog? To me it is to repeat or reiterate a point or to offer a fresh perspective. I try hard and sometimes I succeed.

      Delete
  16. I feel people today forget that 'dialog' may be more about listening than blasting someone with their own point of view. It's such a delightful concept it is - listening!
    They should teach it more often in schools, homes and society.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rickie, Hi5 there buddy!!! Listening is my favorite concept. So much so that I wrote a post on it: http://cybernag.in/2013/01/listening-with-your-heart/ It is one of my fav posts!

      Delete
  17. Very relevant post, Bhavana. How often we enter dialogue just to prove our POV rather than building a mutually accepted consensus, which defeats the very purpose of dialogue. We conveniently forget that listening is as much a part of communication as speaking.

    There are very few who can analyse a point as deeply as you do. I am impressed...all over again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So true, Meenakshi. Some of us simply label it as dialog but it has nothing to do with it. It merely a competition of who can use what argument or worser nonverbals to shame/subjugate/defeat the other. What purpose does it serve to emerge the victor??? And yet we join in--even I do that often and I hate it when I realize what I did.

      Delete
  18. Bhavs, you write such poignant posts. I had to concentrate so much to understand the depth of each line. This is one of your posts that definitely needs a re-read. I realise I have been in the pre-dialog phase for a long time now. Time to start dialog. Liked each of your points in during dialog. And trust me, the pictures are so apt.
    Subhorup, I had been meaning to get to your blog for so long now. Glad I did today and subscribed. I wanted to thank you and your Mother for sending the Book to my daughter through Bhavana.
    Had it not been for blogging, I wouldn't have met her. I am always thankful to the blog world for that :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Latha, your honesty always floors me. That open receptive heart is what most of us lack. That in itself is a fertile ground for dialog to emerge.

      Delete
  19. WEll written as always Bhavs! And great pictures Subho!
    Loved point no. 2 when you say we need to listen from the heart. True communication happens in between all the words that are not spoken! Well written again!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Danny!!! Listening is the toughest ego-bashing, ego-decreasing, ego-dwindling exercise one can participate in. It is penance and yet a joy when one succeeds to create the space for the Other to enter and dwell...

      Delete
  20. You turn our cultural pattererns upside down Bhavana. Rather than reach out to others in our need, you'd have us stand in our own best wholeness, with unflinching inward gaze, and invite others in....amazing thought!

    ReplyDelete
  21. You turn our cultural patterns upside down, Bhavana. Rather than reach out to others in our need, you'd have us stand in our own best wholeness, with unflinching inner gaze, and invite others in....amazing thought!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Beautiful and relevant thoughts Bhavana. Point 5 of pre-dialogue allows us to be human while trying our best to rise above, whereas Point 2 of Dialogue highlights the significance of good listening. Thanks to Subho for introducing me to a prolific writer.

    ReplyDelete

Dialog is the path to peace, and this blog is all about dialog, peace and love. Go ahead and join in.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...