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.