OPEN FORUM  Background Paper Collection -- Paper 4


Reflections about Dialogue



Dialog:   A Challenge or Mission Impossible ?

We hear all to often that Dialog is difficult, often impossible and more so with more than two people. What a strange presumption and misconception, a societal myth. Same as people can not get overview or find orientation in modern times.


Such myth are close to dogma, you have to believe it as a “given” or a-priori. It is not questioned as we all observe it all too often and everywhere that people in groups have problems to communicate attentively, appreciative, compassionately, in a fruitful and empowering way.

Old Rules for a beer-table “Stammtisch” were to be sitting with 6 plus/minus 1 persons, we even challenge that by thinking that 7 plus/minus 2 people make up a good dialogue, and it can event we done in larger groups that people not break up into small groups, but an intensive sharing and empowering, subsuming and resonating can happen – we call that magic round-tables.

Please see first some necessary ingredients:






The graph and some links were developed around the  Leadership Development Dialog and Diversity site and initiative from the late 90ies:

So let us check below some hurdles and barriers we have to address which prevent us from reaching the objectives of :


  • Suspend Certainty
  • Seek to Expand the Questions
  • Grow Ideas Rather Than Take a Position
  • Listen to Your Listening
  • Be Open Rather Than Attaching to Outcomes   



Other cultures have found ways to be in large communities and come to “true” dialogue” and deep conversations. They had some rule-sets, like you may speak as long as you have a talking-stick or salt-box in your hands.

You can speak as long as you like and feel appropriate, others would listen and not disturb the “flow” of thoughts, until you pass it on or put into the middle so others can take it. But this works only when you are part of a culture where there is plenty of time and you have a common cultural codex, so you would not expand unduly – steeling time form others or boring them or ridiculing yourself by presenting just a personal, maybe be even uninteresting matter, neglecting the scope of a bigger subject or whole.


Some cultures use no device, they ask everybody speaks as long as he/she wishes and so the groups stays together until there is consensus or a decision is reached. Other cultures limit the time by certain “rules”, like set of minutes, eminence or superiority, time someone can stand on one leg, or to make the session not drag on “forever” agree to come to an end or conclusion before someone has to leave the group for whatever reason. We have been for example told by the elder woman of the Maori that they pass tee, again and again and the participants (chieftains) have to drink (out of politeness), so there is human, physical limit to any bow-wow or deliberation – as nobody can leave until a modus-vivendi/settlement or agreement is reached.


All these and more rules have been invented to keep the “talkers” in check. Which by the way was the last footnote in David Bohms “ON DIALOGE” where he pondered on his final challenge “HOW TO STOP THE TALKERS”. Please note !!: Talking per-se is not bad – it is very much needed – same as listening, subsuming and resonating in groups.


Deepening and Framing the Debates and Dialogues   - Attention Economies and Ecologies

This Page and the Backgroundpaper is not just about the much acclaimed Attention Economy and how communciation is framed nowadays, but more so on a much needed Attention, Sharing and Empowerment/Co-creation Ecology and Culture, not about the much acclaimed Attention Economy in the modern media and cyberculture age.

To care about how to catch and hold attention is a valid drive in the Attention economy, but left out is the concert and engendering harmony and variety of viewpoints and voices. To collect as much as possible attention can be disasterous, call it a monopol of unilateral control. Creativity research prove that the variety and difference is important, the right “heureca” cognitive act at the right time. The control of the time and monopolization of the quantitative aspects is contraproductive, the right new idea and the right time, the the objective we should strife for. So let us see how to achieve the Objective below towards attentive deliberations and authentic, compassionate sharing and co-creation:





  1. Suspend Certainty
  2. Seek to Expand the Questions
  3. Grow Ideas Rather Than Take a Position
  4. Listen to Your Listening
  5. Be Open Rather Than Attaching to Outcomes




We are inviting here to consider a moment


A Circle with 60 talking sticks – not just one – setting an obvious, visual time limit of 60 minutes


A World Café, which originally was done with one talking stick, with small or large groups attending. Traditional circles break up in groups of typically 3 participants and then convene in the large group. As above: you need time and the intensive dialogue and deliberation – not discussion or percussion – as take place typically elsewhere.


The Open Space,

Concider the Magic Round Tables a short intense Open Space, where the group does not need to break up into smaller groups – or a circle when people assemble for one topic and have the need for keeping the talkers “in check”and want to avoid that groups break up due to “monologing” of participants and no true self-moderation of the group.


The Burse or  Market, ….


The Barters


Pitching and Slams


Comparing methods was done around this STORYTELLING exercise (in GERMAN sorry)




Please have a good read at this article and follow some links here:


Heiner Benking

The Author is founder of the Open-Forum Magic Roundtable Dialog method, is one of the „Lovers of Democracy“ and part of the Knowledge Management Team of the New Agora.


OPEN FORUM Background Paper Collection -- Paper 4