Note – The below is based on a discussion I had with Andrew Barrett on the Safety on Tap podcast, which you can listen to here.
Dialogue is one of the most powerful, and abundant sources of learning available to us as humans (especially professionals).
Technology, in particular social media, helps us get more connected, and should enable us to have better learning dialogue. But it rarely does.
Social media constrains dialogue, limited by the text medium, short length, and relative anonymity behind a keyboard. (And trolls).
Learning focused dialogue on social media, especially when people disagree, too easily disintegrates into defensiveness, confusion, and negativity.
So let’s take online dialogue offline.
Social media does help us connect, and reach interesting people. Social media is a great way to start dialogue – but not continue it.
Offline is the way to make the most of learning through dialogue.
How to Take Dialogue from Online to Offline
1. Craft a question, reflection, problem or idea, ready for posting on social media, like you normally would.
2. In your post, include a statement like this: “I would like to learn from others with some offline dialogue. I am inviting [X number] people for a conversation about this, on [date] at [time], via [method of hosting the dialogue]. Comment below if you want to take part. I will contact you with further details. Thanks.”
3. Include the hashtag #thedialoguemanifesto so people can find your invitation.
4. Post it.
5. Host your dialogue.
You’ll find interesting people using your social media network. You’ll know what you want to talk about. Now here’s some ideas for methods to host your offline dialogue:
- in person (cafe, walking)
- group phone call
- teleconference (many of us have these for work)
- free calling through Hangouts, Skype, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger etc
Principles for Learning Through Dialogue:
Human as possible – Go low tech. Only use phone/telecon if these most interesting people can’t meet you in person.
Be Present – Do this live, realtime, synchronous. Do not try this on email.Give to get – be generous, expect nothing and be ready to be surprised
Cosy – Dialogue works well just with few people. We suggest inviting 1-3 people (dialogue with more than 4 people becomes challenging)
Curious – take a genuine interest in other people and their views. Assume that those with other views see something that you do not.
Open – be open to other perspectives, to challenge, and to open-ended dialogue (there doesn’t need to be an end point)
Respectful – by all means disagree (this makes for the best learning) but do so respectfully. Understanding is the goal, not winning.
Safe – protect your information and personal security when hosting dialogue (especially in-person)
Gratitude – Be thankful for, and say thank you to the people who contribute.
Pay it forward – if you participate in a dialogue, irrespective of what happens, start one of
your own next. Spread success, or improve on it.
- Use someone else’s interesting post, report, new article, book or podcast as a focus for your dialogue
- Use one of your greatest challenges right now
- Suggest offline dialogue when you see an online conversation disintegrating
- Invite specific people to contribute to the dialogue
The Bottom Line
Starting dialogue online, and continuing it offline, is a great way to enable effective learning. All you need to do is ask.
Can you develop honest dialog without first building trust? In our current state of transactional relationships, isn’t the development of trust a prerequisite or foundation for beneficial communication? We talk about HOP, Safety Differently and so many other acronyms, we seem to have lost contact with what is creating the greatest risks to individuals working at the hazard interface. Not that these are bad ideas, but rather we continue to limit our focus to the wrong problems. Are we just fueling a new “safety ecosystem” or are we REALLY committed to keeping people free from harm?
Curiously i came to this same realisation this morning. After years of boxing and dancing to develop an engaged, proactive and responsive safety culture at my place of work – very little sticks because of the fundamentally low trust culture here.
Hey Ronald. Thanks for the comment. I think that your point is a good one regarding trust, but, of course, it begs the question – how do you build trust? One way is to start by building contacts where people can lead by trusting and identify shared goals. That’s what this is about. If we cannot even have a constructive conversation on topics we don’t agree on, how on earth can we collaborate to tackle complex problems, such as safety?
Thanks for the reply Ron. I think you’ve succinctly hit the nail on the head with your closing question. How do you develop trust? Openness, sensitivity, consistency, courage and honesty that conveys a sense of justness. The willingness to listen to people in the ways they communicate. The courage to recognize that fallibility and propensity for error are not exclusive to any level of the corporate strata. Being true to your word and your shared values, no matter how inconvenient they may be or become. I agree with you Ron and you make an excellent point. If nothing else, complexity should teach ALL of us that NO ONE has the answers and that it will take a concerted and collective effort to overcome them, if we can at all. Without first having the psychologically safe place for discussion, how will we ever learn what we need to facilitate physical safety?
Brene Brown’s BRAVING framework works well as a basis for building trust in a safety context. It aligns very well with the safety differently philosophy and with your points here. Trust and dialogue go hand in hand and develop together – neither can work without the other.
Thanks so much Craig. What a simple, direct and fundamental framework with applicability under most human interactions I can think of. Seven simple but powerful commitments. Thanks again!