Dialogue is often misunderstood. It is not simply speaking, even with the best of intentions. Constructive dialogue is a structured method of communication that allows all parties to have the same basic set of facts, or common understandings, on which to base decision making. This may seem obvious, but achieving those common understandings is one of the greatest challenges, and also one of the greatest opportunities whether it be working on a business plan or attempting to reach a cease fire. It is much more than seeing the glass as half-empty or half-full, it is determining whether you are even interested in the glass at all.
We use constructive dialogue to build confidence, strengthen trust, and create understanding of how differing perspectives can make the same set of “facts” appear completely different from one person to the next. This can be an eye opener for some and it can be very unsettling for others. This first step in constructive dialogue is necessary because not only are facts essential in problem solving and planning, but how those facts are understood and perceived is even more important to the long run success of any endeavor.