Posted by: Andrew | January 31, 2011

Theories of Dialogue

I’m currently reading Daniel Yankelovich’s book The Magic of Dialogue. It’s a fascinating look at the theory and practice of dialogue from someone who’s come at it through the business world rather than the inter-faith one. He’s made some very interesting observations which I shall ponder on and probably reflect on here.

One interesting comment he make is that decision making and dialogue should be separate. Descisions, he argues, often don’t require dialogue but dialogue allows you to openly explore some of the underlying assumptions behind decisions that need to be made.

He does, however, adopt the view that dialogue should be about exploring common ground and it assumes that people have different parts of the jigsaw that can fit together. This, I think, is problematic in the realm of inter-faith dialogue. Firstly it’s healthy and often vital to explore, not only the common ground, but also the distinctives that are often the cause of division. However, many folk come to a dialogue willing to engage but not adhering to the pluralist view that we all have pieces of the jigsaw and together we can find a newer and greater truth. Rather they come convinced that they have found the truth and want to use the skills of dialogue to explain their truth and listen to nthe truths held by others.

The work I do is predicated on this notion that dialogue can, and often must, recognise difference; and that it has to be open to people with more exclusivist theologies rather than being the sole preserve of the theological pluralists.

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