One of the most important tools for a leader is the ability to dialogue. We often take for granted that when there are two or more people speaking together, a dialogue is taking place. Upon closer inspection however, often what takes place is instead a monologue.

According to Wikipedia, “Dialogue is formed by the two words 'dia' and 'logos', which can be literally interpreted as 'to speak across', 'to converse', or more appropriately the 'two way flow/exchange' of meaning. “ If you pay close attention to “conversations” throughout your day, you may discover that true dialogue isn’t taking place.

This is made worse by our use of modern technology that is oriented towards monologue; email and social media are often used to “push out” information. Dialogue is more often missing than not. When communication breakdowns happen, we wonder, what went wrong?

A recent example occurred when a client was experiencing frustration with her boss. As I listened to her, I realize that there had been a lack of true dialogue. She and her boss had not engaged in a meaningful conversation about how his actions were impeding her ability to create the level of senior client relationship she was accustomed to. She became frustrated and felt powerless to change it. The conversations she had been having with him did not result in him shifting his perceptions.

As a coach, I inquire about the conversation. What took place? To dialogue, there must be a committed listener and a committed speaker. In monologue, there is a speaker; the listeners may or may not be committed.

To know if you are in dialogue, ask yourself these questions:

• Are you engaged in a two-way flow in which there is an “exchange of meaning?”
• When you listen, are you thinking of the next thing you want to say or truly responding to what is being spoken about?
• Are you paying attention to the listener, observing whether they are with you or not?

When this client and I peeled apart the important elements of dialogue and we practiced together, it became apparent that she was capable of a much more effective conversation than any previous ones with boss. She left feeling energized and excited to have it. Later that evening, she phoned to let me know that the dialogue we practiced was effective. Her boss saw her perspective. Together they co-created a solution.

Conversation is the means through which we create actions in the world; the fabric of organizational life is woven together through conversations. Dialogue is present in effective conversations.

We are often talking “at” people rather than speaking “with them.” You know the difference because you feel it. When you are in dialogue, you are in co-creation. Through conversation you can generate a new future.

This requires presence, positive energy and connection.

Bring this to your conversations and let the dialogue begin.

Author's Bio: 

Susan Freeman is an executive coach who is best known for her unique approach to leadership transformation–combining Western strategic discipline with Eastern integrative wisdom techniques. Her clients get to the root of what is holding them back, allowing access to their Natural Leader. They evolve their leadership in an integrated, balanced and sustainable way. When they do, they experience passion, clarity and exceptional results.

She is the author of, “Step Up Now: 21 Powerful Principles for People Who Influence Others,” as well as a public speaker on the inner dimensions of leadership. Her passion is working with motivated, high-achieving leaders and influencers.

Susan received her M.B.A. in Marketing from Columbia University and her B.A. in Psychology from Wellesley College. Susan is an accredited coach with the International Coach Federation, as well as with Newfield Network where she received her coaching training. She is also a certified business facilitator from the MSP Institute. Susan brings to her coaching more than 25 years of corporate, entrepreneurial and non-profit business management and leadership experience.

She volunteers to mentor young women leaders locally and globally. In Africa, she works closely with The Akilah Institute to help empower young women with the skills, knowledge and confidence to become leaders. Her book connects her to the school, where it is used in curriculum and where she donates all profits from its sales. In Tampa she has mentored young women through the Emerge Tampa program of the Greater Tampa Chamber and Frameworks Tampa Bay.

Susan is a native of Kansas City and resides in Tampa, FL. In Tampa she is an active member of The Athena Society and a Leadership Tampa Alumna. She has founded or served on several educational boards at the secondary and university levels.

Susan is happily married and has three grown sons. Her hobbies include ballroom dancing, travel and yoga. Rarely a day goes by when she doesn’t eat a piece of dark chocolate.