The Secrets to Maintaining a Liberating Dialogue
Knowing how to express oneself, and knowing how to speak and understand is a true art form. There are many secrets to engaging in a liberating dialogue. You need to learn how to navigate silences, make pauses and intervene at the right time. Better yet, you must know how to listen and have the ability to understand the other person within their own context.
When we talk about a “liberating dialogue,” we’re talking about that type of conversation that lets the people involved truly express themselves. To express oneself means to overcome barriers to communication. Hence, a liberating dialogue is a space for everyone to communicate with authenticity.
Indeed, many dialogues can turn out to be inconsequential, but many others are of particular importance. And within these, it is very important for one to know what to say and what to hold back. You have to speak the same language and build a genuine connection with the other person so that you may establish true communication.
Silence is an important part of dialogue
Many people feel an acute need to be heard or listened to. That’s why they talk and talk and talk nonstop, and this can be a bit uncomfortable for the people around them. This need to constantly be communicating sometimes originates from a profound egocentrism, but other times it’s simply a reflection of distress or the need for self-assertion.
Not everyone understands the value of silence, nor does everyone understand that communication is a two-way process, in which each one of the parties must be able to speak and must know when to be quiet. That’s why many supposed dialogues are actually monologues.
You could say then that the first condition to engaging in a liberating dialogue is to have developed the ability to understand and value silence. Not the type of silence that translates into absence, but rather the type of silence that means you are being heard. It means attention and acknowledgement of what the other person is saying.
A willingness to converse
A dialogue between two people is only genuine if there is always a genuine intention to participate. This implies a disposition to listen, to be willing to make an effort to understand. In this sense, remaining silent while the other person speaks is not enough. It’s about being mentally active during this silence.
When there’s an authentic interest towards dialogue, a serene, comprehensive and curious type of listening arises. Serene listening means that in order to speak you must choose a moment in which emotions aren’t exalted. And if they are, it is important to be sure that we have the ability to control them.
Active listening is an interesting type of listening. It isn’t limited to remaining silent and validating everything the other person is saying. Instead, it seeks to obtain more information to clarify and better understand what the other person is saying. Questions are an excellent way to build a connection, and they also constitute evidence for the other person that they are being listened to.
Comprehensive listening refers to the disposition one has to put themselves in someone else’s place and understand what they feel when they express it. Being attentive to those feelings and emotions that flow through the nonverbal channel. Because a liberating dialogue is something that goes beyond words, it also means to capture the feelings that arise during communication.
Judgment is the death sentence of any conversation
Taking on the role of judge, as if the other person was on a trial or the prisoner brought forth for sentencing, will never be the way to go. Right away, it opens the doors to distrust, fear, tension and non-communication.
Nobody wants a dialogue with someone that judges them. In a liberating dialogue, uncomfortable aspects, difficult confessions or maybe even some truths that you don’t want to hear can come to light. That’s the only way a dialogue can truly be liberating. That’s why this is not possible if one of the people involved takes on the position of a censor or tries to guide or control the other’s behavior.
It is also advisable to inform yourself well about the topic or problem in question, before sharing your own opinion. In fact, the best arguments generally come from people who have suffered the same problem and have some experience in the matter. Professional help, in many cases, turns out to be the best option.
Let the dialogue flow
Achieving the highest degree of connection with the other person is fundamental. Listening attentively, without interrupting or getting sidetracked, is very healthy. Nevertheless, we oftentimes interrupt the conversation because we may forget certain points stated by the other person and about which we have certain annotations.
In such cases, it’s best to jot down the most important points and let the other person speak uninterruptedly. Thus, when the person has finished, you can walk over the argument they presented point-by-point and express your own opinions. Obviously, without turning the dialogue into something rigid, strict or regimented.
The atmosphere or scenario of a conversation can also be important. If the matter which you’re going to discuss is delicate or requires a maximum degree of attention, the best thing to do is seek a private place that is safe from interruptions. The right setting contributes to the fluidity of the dialogue.
Five practical pieces of advice
Based on the previous matters discussed, there are five basic rules that can be applied in order for a dialogue to truly transform into a liberating space for all of the parties involved:
- Looking for the right time and place. There shouldn’t be any hurrying and you should be sure that you won’t be interrupted.
- Agree about the topic. As strange as it may sound, oftentimes conversations can fail because the topic that’s being discussed hasn’t been clearly determined. If both people know, they can make friendly reminders to the other person to get back on track, when said person has drifted to other topics.
- Propose an objective. What is the point of the conversation? It’s best to establish and determine it in order to avoid unrealistic or authoritarian purposes. For example, the goal should never be “so you will change” or “so you will stop being that way” or “so that everything works out”. Instead, the dialogue should be focused towards achieving a better understanding about certain points.
- Agree on basic rules. For example, commit to not interrupting the other person while they are talking and establish a time limit for each intervention. Although at first it can seem a bit artificial, it’s crucial to make the conversation flow.
- Commit to talking about yourself, not the other person. It is a very healthy rule: express what you feel, and don’t refer to what the other person is feeling. This will neutralize any temptations to make unsolicited judgments.