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The Southern communication journal 2000 by TAYLOR &-(Answered)

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  • Using?the?attached?articles,?answer?these?questions?in?250?words?or?more.?Please?cite?using?APA?format.
  • What modes of communication encourage partnership versus superior or subordinate relationships?
  • What do you do now that mirrors this partnership concept and what would you need to change?
  • How do the self in relationship and the self as collaborator or co-creator manifest themselves in this type of communication?

The Southern communication journal ? 2000 by TAYLOR & FRANCIS INFORMA UK LTD - JOURNALS.

 

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I

 


 

COMBINING PASSIONS

 

AND ABILITIES:

 

Toward Dialogic Virtuosity

 


 

w. Barnett Pearce and Kimberly A. Pearce

 

After three years of a city-wide public dialogue process, things were happening that the participants felt could not have happened earlier. As we explored what had changed since the inception of the process, we developed the concept of "dialogic virtuosity. " This concept sensitized us

 

to differences among ways that other scholars and practitioners use the term "dialogue". While

 

they had made sharp distinctions between dialogue and other forms of communication

 

(debate, discussion, and deliberation), we had to invent a vocabulary for distinguishing

 

among various flavors of dialogue. Using a conceptualization of virtuosity, we explored the

 

"grand passions" that motivate dialogic practitioners, made "perspicacious distinctions"

 

among these flavors of dialogue, and described the "abilities needed" to engage in dialogue.

 

We conclude by suggesting that dialogic practitioners need the abilities to create and maintain

 

a charmed loop among one s self, the interpersonal relationships among members of the group,

 

and the unfolding episode. This concept of a charmed loop offers a way of understanding

 

some of the differences among the various flavors of dialogic practice and descriptions.

 


 

"Virtuoso: A person who excels in the technique of doing something, especially

 

singing or playing music"-Oxford American Dictionary (1980)

 


 

"V

 


 

irtuosity" is what results when people follow their passions to know something well and to perform skillfully. Although it is typically associated with

 

the performing arts, there are virtuosos in every form of human endeavor.

 

Take, for example, seasoned mariners who read tide tables and weather reports with an

 

intensity that those who have never reefed a mainsail in a storm might fail to appreciate. Being able to read the water to prepare for a header, interpret symbols on a navigation chart and follow the guidance of buoys and lights are aspects of a sailor's virtuosity

 

that one would want with white water ahead.

 

Virtuosity in any field combines at least three things: (a) a "grand passion" for what

 

you are doing, whether sailing, cooking, enjoying fine wines, learning the etymology of

 

a word, playing chess or bridge; (b) an ability to make perspicacious distinctions (e.g.,

 

when sailing, knowing the differences among tacking, jibing, falling off, and heading

 

up); and (c) the ability to engage in skilled performance (e.g., actually being able to

 

tack,jibe, fall off, head up, stand on course, chart a course, and pick up a mooring).

 

We became interested in the metaphor of virtuosity as practitioners involved in a multiyear action research project enabling a city to deal more effectively with sensitive and controversial issues. While debriefing a very successful public dialogue meeting on October 15,

 

1998 (see Spano, in press, for details), several of the residents of the city who had worked as

 

small group facilitators noted that what had occurred on this night could not have hapW Barnett Pearce, Human and Organizational Development Program, The Fielding Institute; Pearce Associates; Public

 

Dialogue Consortium; and Kimberly A. Pearce, Department of Speech Communication, De Anza College; Pearce Associates;

 

Public Dialogue Consortium. Correspondence regarding this article should be addressed to the authors at 807 Wharftide

 

Road, San Mateo, CA 94404, or by electronic mail to wbpearce@worldnet.att.net.

 

SOUTHERN COMMUNICATIONJOURNAL, Volume 65, Numbers 2 & 3, Winter-Spring 2000

 


 

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THE SOUTHERN COMMUNICATION JOURNAL

 


 

pened earlier in the project. They spoke both of their own skills and of the "readiness" of

 

the community. As we explored our curiosity about what had changed that enabled this

 

remarkable event, we began to use the term "dialogic virtuosity" as a way of naming what

 

these facilitators and the community had now that they did not have three years previously.

 

We ran into unexpected difficulty as we tried to develop this concept. "Dialogue"

 

has been a very fertile concept in both the academic and the management literatures,

 

and we found that we resonate more with some parts of these literatures than with others. Our perception is that there are important and insufficiently described differences

 

in the concepts and practices currently named as "dialogue." Some of the differences

 

are intellectual, owing to different conceptual groundings; while others are practical,

 

responding to the differences in the contexts in which various people work and their

 

positions within those contexts. Because they are inadequately inscribed, we find it difficult to discern whether these distinctions constitute different forms of practice or

 

result from adaptations to specific contexts. In an attempt to enhance our own virtuosity in dialogue, we set ourselves to give a close reading of some texts that practitioners

 

would agree are examples or descriptions of dialogue.

 

As we reflected on our own work, we realized that we have acted on a set of assumptions that many other practitioners and theorists would not affirm or would want to

 

quality in important ways. The assumptions that guided our work can be stated like this:

 

(a) Dialogue is a form of communication with specific "rules" that distinguish it from

 

other forms. (b) Among the effects of these rules are communication patterns that

 

enable people to speak so that others can and will listen, and to listen so that others can

 

and will speak. (c) Participating in this form of communication requires a set of abilities, the most important of which is remaining in the tension between holding your own

 

perspective, being profoundly open to others who are unlike you, and enabling others

 

to act similarly. (d) These abilities are learnable, teachable, and contagious. (e) There

 

are at least three levels of these abilities, including the abilities to respond to another's

 

invitation to engage in dialogue, to extend an invitation to another to engage in dialogue, and to construct contexts that are conducive to dialogue. (f) Skilled facilitators

 

can construct contexts sufficiently conducive to dialogue so that participants are

 

enabled to engage in dialogue in ways they would not without the work of the facilitator.

 

Our most troubling initial "finding" was that we did not have an adequate vocabulary for naming how beliefs and practices in dialogue are similar to and different from

 

others. We noted that the writings of Martin Buber figured more prominently in our

 

work than in that of some other people, and that some of the things that others said

 

and did fell jarringly on our ears. We suspected that our talk and actions might seem

 

equally off-key to other dialogic practitioners. Just as we would doubt the virtuosity of a

 

sailor who cannot distinguish a sloop from a dingy or a musician who cannot differentiate jazz from classical, our inability to name and distinguish among the various traditions of practice in dialogue signaled our lack of virtuosity.

 

Our own passions about dialogue prompted us to ask questions such as these. What

 

vocabulary helps us identity and differentiate dialogue from other forms of communication, and to distinguish some forms of dialogue from others? How do we name the

 

skills that distinguish competent practitioners from those who are clumsy or unsophisticated? What are the similarities and differences among various theorists, practitioners,

 

and traditions of practice? What are the effects of these differences? We explored these

 

questions using the metaphor of a dialogic virtuoso who combines grand passions,

 

makes perspicacious distinctions, and engages in skilled performance.

 

GRAND PASSIONS FOR DIALOGUE

 

Practitioners tell many stories about their affinity for dialogue. Some expound a

 

grand vision of life as it should be; others refer to a particularly captivating experience

 


 

COMBINING PASSIONS AND ABILITIES

 


 

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that pulls them again and again; and still others tell of having developed an aversion to

 

nondialogic forms of communication and seeking to explore alternatives. Like all virtuosos, there is something both of compulsion and fascination in what we call the grand

 

passions of dialogic virtuosity.

 

The descriptions of these passions are often powerful and sometimes poetic. Over

 

thirty years ago, Matson and Montague (1967, p. 5) described "dialogue" as the "unfinished third revolution" in communication theory. Those promoting this revolution,

 

whatever their primary professional discourse, are motivated by a vision that "the end

 

of human communication is not to command but to commune; and that knowledge of the

 

highest order (whether of the world, of oneself, or of the other) is to besought and

 

found not through detachment but through connection, not by objectivity but by intersubjectivity, not in a state of estranged aloofness but in something resembling an act of

 

love" (Matson & Montague, 1967, p. 6).

 

For Martin Buber, dialogue is a primary form of relationship, without which human

 

life is incomplete. The primary words of our being in the world-"I-thou" and "I-it"are "combined" words in which neither component is complete without the other.

 

These primary words "do not signifY things, but they intimate relations" (Buber, 1958,

 

p. 4). The "I" of "I-thou" is different from the "I" of "I-it." Buber thought that social life

 

was distorted toward a preponderance of I-it relations and emphasized what is involved

 

in a "genuine meeting" with the "other" to whom we relate as a "thou." He said that "all

 

real living is in meeting" (Buber, 1958, p. 11).

 

Others see dialogue as a means of bringing about social change. Yankelovich is

 

quoted on the Public Agenda website (www.publicagenda.org) as saying that when done

 

"skillfully," dialogue produces extraordinarily important things: "mistrust overcome,

 

mutual understanding achieved, visions shaped and grounded in shared purpose . . .

 

new common ground discovered ... bonds of community strengthened." However, one

 

of the "most serious vulnerabilities" of "our American culture," he added, is "a surprising amateurishness in doing dialogue." We need both will and skill to overcome the

 

"dialogue deficit" (Yankelovich, 1999). Sanders (1999) reported successes in using "sustained dialogue" as the way to transform relationships and thus deal with racial and ethnic conflicts. Pearce (1993, pp. 62, 71) claimed that dialogue should be the form, not

 

the content, of the "meta-narrative in postmodern society" in which we can engage with

 

each other as "others"-not only other-than-us but others who are not like us.

 

Other dialogic virtuosos are compelled by the memory and/or anticipation of what

 

Cissna and Anderson (1998, p. 74) called "dialogic moments." In these moments, the

 

"dialogic partners" share an experience of "inventive surprise ... as each "turns toward"

 

the other and both mutually perceive the impact of each other's turning. It is a brief

 

interlude of focused awareness and acceptance of otherness and difference that somehow simultaneously transcends the perception of difference itself." In a presentation at

 

the International Communication Association convention in May, 1999, John Stewart

 

described teaching experiences in which he and his colleague Karen Zediker experienced moments of "letting the other happen to me while holding my own ground."

 

The quality of these moments compels specific directions in the development of both

 

theory and curriculum (see Stewart & Zediker, 2000). "Dialogic process," according to

 

McNamee and Gergen (1999, p. 5) has "two transformative functions: first, in transforming the interlocutors' understanding of the action in question ... and second, in

 

altering the relations among the interlocutors themselves."

 

MAKING PERSPICACIOUS DISTINCTIONS

 

Just as musicians can listen to a few bars of music and immediately discern whether

 

it is rap, swing, rhythm and blues, classical, or jazz, many of us have been trying to learn

 

how to discern among various kinds of conversations. In a letter (undated) enclosed

 


 

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with the first issue of Global Dialogue, editor Paul Theodoulou said that this new journal

 

will "strive to initiate dialogue, presenting both sides of a given topic by setting up a

 

debate between thinkers of differing or opposed views." Many of us would want to distinguish between dialogue and debate and would think that creating a context in which

 

issues have two sides and thinkers are identified by their mutual oppositions is more

 

likely to create debate rather than dialogue (Roth et aI., 1992). Contrasting it with "discussion," Ellinor and Gerard (1998, p. 21), described dialogue as "seeing the whole

 

rather than breaking it into parts; seeing connections rather than distinctions; inquiring into assumptions rather than justifying or defending them; learning through

 

inquiry and disclosure rather than persuading, selling or telling; and creating shared

 

meanings rather than gaining agreement on one meaning."

 

One move toward dialogic virtuosity is that of distinguishing dialogue from its counterparts (e.g., debate, discussion, deliberation). However, a second move requires the

 

development of a more sophisticated language in which the differences among the various ,flavors or forms of dialogue itself can be described. Three things have hindered

 

the development of such a vocabulary for those of us pursuing our passion for dialogue: the fluidity of communication; the rapidity with which traditions of practice have

 

developed; and the disconnect between theorists and practitioners.

 

Stewart (1994, p. xiii) described the essential fluidity of communication, noting that

 

we "still lack a simple vocabulary in which to discuss this collaborative, negotiated,

 

transactional, relational set of realities." Every proposed vocabulary, including our suggestion of "dialogic virtuosity," carries with it unwanted connotations and imprisons an

 

emergent, fluid, shape-changing process in too-rigid cases. Those of us who struggle to

 

describe communication clearly find ourselves wanting to add the phrase " ... and

 

that's not quite it" as a universal suffix to our statements (see the discussion of "mystery" in Pearce, 1989, pp. 77-87).

 

The disconnect between practitioners and theorists is partly a function of differences in the pace of events in their forms of life. The lag-time between completion of

 

an article or book and its publication often spans several important developments in a

 

tradition of practice. As a result, practitioners seldom find scholarly publications current and scholars are frustrated by the fluidity of traditions of practice. Over thirty years

 

ago, Matson and Montague (1967, p. 5) noted that "The concept of 'dialogue' ... has

 

already begun to suffer the inevitable fate of fashionable acceptance-that of dilution

 

and distortion." Even if we call it "inventiveness and development" rather than "dilution and distortion," it is clear that practitioners (who seldom cite scholarly references

 

in their work) adapt their practices with far more alacrity than theorists (for whom

 

scholarly references are their work) adapt their theories.

 

We are ~onfronted by a profound conundrum. The more accurately we represent the

 

current state of practice, the more we have produced a description with a short lifespan.

 

Usually, an attempt to describe "current" practices is obsolete before it is published.

 

As a result, our efforts to interpret various texts should not be seen as an accurate

 

description so much as the development of a language permitting description and differentiation of various forms of dialogic practice. In what follows, we make a number of

 

comparisons and contrasts. Of course, we are not neutral in this process, but our purpose is to contribute to a language capable of perspicacious contrasts, not simply sorting out what we like or agree with from what we do not.

 

Distinctions among Concepts ofDialogue

 


 

Because the texts are more readily available, there has been more work focusing on

 

describing academic concepts of dialogue than traditions of dialogic practice. Concepts

 

have been compared on four characteristics: descriptive vs. prescriptive stances, instrumentality, time, and agency.

 


 

COMBINING PASSIONS AND ABILITIES

 


 

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In his comments at the 1999 lCA convention, Stewart distinguished between

 

descriptive accounts of all communication that show it to be dialogical and prescriptive

 

accounts that point to particular and desirable qualities that set "dialogue" off from

 

other forms of communication. Stewart cited Bakhtin and various proponents of social

 

constructionism as exemplars of the descriptive stance because they argue that all communication, whether it acknowledges it or not, is contingent, emergent, and responsive. Exemplars of the prescriptive stance are Martin Buber and David Bohm, both of

 

whom describe characteristics of communication that are not always present and

 

towards which we should strive.

 

Dialogic practitioners are sharply divided about the instrumentality of dialogue.

 

Some see dialogue as an autonomous goal in itself while others see it as a means to

 

other ends. A contributor to an organizational development listserve who said "NO

 

kind of decision-making is appropriate for dialogic treatment, since when the purpose

 

is decision-making, the communication is not dialogue" expressed the end-in-itself

 

position forcefully. Isaacs (1999) seems to have a more instrumental goal in mind.

 

Other practitioners focus on dialogue as a practical means of transforming relationships. Even though it is not itself a means of decision-making or negotiation, good

 

things happen when relationships are improved (Yankelovich, 1999; Sanders, 1999). In

 

our work in a city, we found that many of our collaborators want to see specific outcomes rather than, as they put it, 'Just talk," and we are intentionally "using" dialogue

 

as a way of increasing the city's capability to deal productively with difficult issues. Bruce

 

Hyde captured both of these concepts when, on another dialogue-oriented listserve, he

 

distinguished between dialogue p which he defined as technique-driven forms of active

 

listening and decision-making, and dialogue 2 , in which dialogue itself-deliberate,

 

reflexively-aware collective thinking-is the goal (see Hyde & Bineham, 2000).

 

Cissna and Anderson (1998, p. 67) called attention to temporal duration of dialogue. They asked, "Is dialogue an unattainable ideal that never occurs, as some skeptics fear, or is it a common or regular state of relationships, an occasional transcendent

 

quality, or a technique available as often as one wants or needs it?" For the most part,

 

they answer, scholarly "treatments of dialogue as other than an unattainable ideal tend

 

to assume that it is a relatively ongoing state." In contrast to this view, Cissna and Anderson (1998, p. 67) suggest that "occasions of dialogue are often quite ephemeral and

 

fleeting ... dialogue exists in moments."

 

We applaud Cissna and Anderson's attention to the temporal dimension of dialogue,

 

and want to posit another point on the continuum. Drawing from our own theoretical

 

work (Pearce, 1994, chapter 4), we would add "episodes" as a temporal unit longer than

 

an "ephemeral and fleeting ... moment" and shorter than an "ongoing state." The concept of dialogic episodes intersects somewhat differently with the characteristics of agency

 

and of instrumentality than does the concept of dialogue as momentary. Examples of dialogic episodes include the work of practitioners in the tradition of the MIT school who

 

will "do a dialogue," by which they mean a relatively short (perhaps a couple of hours)

 

communication event that is described as a "container" for a certain quality of communication. Our own work features public and private meetings that last for several hours as

 

part of a multiyear project whose dominant characteristic is dialogic communication.

 

We are using the term "agency" to mark the differences between thinking of dialogue as something that happens to us or as something that we make happen. Every

 

theorist and practitioner that we know would recoil from the notion that anyone of us

 

can make dialogue happen. Whatever else dialogue is, it is emergent, relational, and

 

contingent. But this only sharpens the question of to what extent we, individually and/

 

or collectively, can deliberately call dialogue into being or whether we have to wait and

 

hope for it to happen. Clearly, there is general agreement that dialogue occurs between

 

extremes of an all-powerful and a powerless agent. This carefully nuanced description

 

might stand as a consensual statement:

 


 

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Human dialogue does not just happen ... but neither can dialogue be planned,

 

pronounced, or willed. Where we find dialogue, we find people who are open

 

to it, people who do not renounce it cynically, but no expert technicians can

 

merchandise or guarantee this relational quality.

 

Therefore, dialogue thrives at the margins of human agency-those ill-defined

 

situations in which we imagine we are somewhat in control but in which our

 

plans surprisingly can blend into the unexpected .... Dialogue, which cannot

 

be mandated, rarely happens accidentally either. (Anderson, Cissna, & Arnett,

 

1994, p. xxi)

 

We believe that there are some important and yet-to-be articulated differences

 

within this general consensus. For example, in our perception, practitioners are generally more confident of their ability to call dialogue into being in specific situations than

 

are theorists. (Of course they are! How else could practitioners do their work!) In addition, those who believe that dialogue is episodic or ongoing are generally more attentive to specific aspects of skillful performance than those who see dialogue as occurring

 

in fleeting moments or as a culture-wide ideal.

 

Distinctions Among Traditions of Practice in Dialogue

 


 

Three conversational fragments are listed below. In each, we have italicized phrases

 

used by a dialogic practitioner that some other practitioners will find inconsistent with

 

their deep grammar about dialogue.

 

The director of a county's homelessness agency told us of a phone call. ''I'm

 

coming to the area for a conference, and I want to do some pro bono work. If

 

you'd like, I'll do a dialogue for you." Puzzled by the phrase "do a dialogue," our

 

colleague asked, "What do you want me to do?" 'Just arrange a room and bring

 

the people together," came the reply, "I'll do the rest."

 

A lively conversation on a listserve of organizational development practitioners

 

interested in dialogue focused for many days and many turns over the question

 

of whether expressing disagreement causes us to fall out of dialogue and into discussion or even debate.

 

In the same listserve, one person wrote (names deleted): "The approach X

 

described in response to Y's inquiry sounds terrific and yet previously he said

 

he was frustrated with the results he was getting. I'm wondering why the results

 

are not yet as he envisions. (Sorry if this inquiry sounds indirect but I was trying

 

to ask the question dialogically rather than as a direct question to X But X please

 

answer if inspired.) "

 

The italicized phrases mark as yet unnamed disjunctures between traditions of practice

 

in dialogue. Within one or some traditions of practice, asking a direct quest...

 

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