Friday, November 27, 2009

Three Primers on Dialogue Theory

I am recommending three books on Dialogue theory because writers can draw many useful conclusions about clear communication by reading them. While they are not specifically about writing, their focus on honest and open interaction without an agenda can inspire writers to fulfill their ethical obligations whether reporting a story or arguing a position. Here they are:

Dialogue: The Art of Thinking Together by William Isaacs. This is an important book for understanding dialogue theory. Here is an excerpt of what I wrote in a book review for ETC: A Review of General Semantics: (The author) reaches into his seemingly endless reserve of rich illustrations from history, popular culture, other cultures, literature, music, philosophy, management, and organized labor to sharpen his readers' focus on the clear distinction between Dialogue and other forms of human communication. … To Isaacs’s credit, he never shies from admitting that attempts at Dialogue can lead to painfully protracted and frustrating impasses. However, he depicts the rewards of communication breakthroughs as virtual miracles. … (Isaacs’s) exhaustive associations between theory and technique render Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together the ultimate handbook on the subject.

The Magic of Dialogue: Transforming Conflict into Cooperation by Daniel Yankelovich. Among the highlights of this highly readable volume are sections which form the core a cogent instruction manual for Dialogue: The 15 strategies of successful dialogues, which include tips for gaining and maintaining trust and for clarifying communication barriers, and the 10 potholes of the mind, which identify egocentric, prejudicial, or unfocused behaviors that negatively impact on Dialogue.

Dialogue: Rediscover the Transforming Power of Conversation by Linda Ellinor, Glenna Gerard. Most valuable are the authors’ strategies for bringing value to Dialogue. Most enjoyable is the enthusiasm that the authors infuse in their personal encounters with people in Dialogue. And most appreciated is the timeless advice they provide for those stifled in their attempts at Dialogue.