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The Fourth Way

On Dialogue
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On Dialogue

By David Bohm

“’dialogue' comes from the Greek word 'dialogos'. 'Logos' means "the word". And 'dia' means "through" - it doesn't mean "two". A dialogue can be among any number of people, not just two. Even one person can have a sense of dialogue within himself, if the spirit of the dialogue is present. The picture or image that this derivation suggests is of a 'stream of meaning' flowing among and through us and between us. This will make possible a flow of meaning in the whole group, out of which may emerge some new understanding. It's something new, which may not have been in the starting point at all. It's something creative. And this shared meaning is the "glue" or "cement" that holds people and societies together.

Contrast this with the word "discussion", which has the same root as "percussion" and "concussion". It really means to break things up. It emphasizes the idea of analysis, where there may be many points of view, and where everybody is presenting a different one - analyzing and breaking up. That obviously has its value, but it is limited, and it will not get us very far beyond our various points of view. Discussion is almost like a ping-pong game, where people are batting the ideas back and forth and the object of the game is to win or to get points for yourself. Possibly you will take up somebody else's ideas to back up your own - you may agree with some and disagree with others - but the basic point is to win the game. That's very frequently the case in a discussion. In a dialogue however, nobody is trying to win. Everybody wins, if anybody wins. There is a different sort of spirit to it. In a dialogue there is no attempt to gain points, or to make your particular view prevail. Rather, whenever any mistake is discovered on the part of anybody, everybody gains.
It's a situation called win-win, whereas the other game is win-lose - if I win, you lose. But a dialogue is something more of a common participation, in which we are not playing a game against each other, but 'with' each other. In a dialogue, everybody wins.”

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