The Magic of Dialogue (Book Review)
by Sharon Flemings

I found a copy of the book The Magic of Dialogue, Transforming Conflict into Cooperation, by Daniel Yankelovich in my local library, and thought it might be a good read for this month’s theme of communication. Indeed, while a rather academic read, this proved to be an interesting discourse on the lack of ability with the skill of dialogue in today’s society, and the implications for both the corporate world and the US as a whole.

Mr. Yankelovich opens his publication with a discussion on the differences between dialogue, debate and discussion, and presents his thesis that we use far too little dialogue in addressing the problems we seek to resolve. He points out that rather than debating issues and attempting to persuade others to our point of view, dialogue seeks to find common ground between the parties, and creating a win for all. The very nature of dialogue happens only after trust has been established between the parties, and any high-ranking individuals have removed their “badges of authority”. Genuine dialogue forces us to openly expresses our values, and therefore exposes us to vulnerabilities if sufficient levels of trust are not built.

After discussing the definition and potential use for dialogue, Mr. Yankelovich presents a list of 15 strategies that can be used to ensure successful dialogue in any situation. He expounds on each of the strategies, and provides examples of how they are used, so the reader can better understand how they can be implemented.

While the latter portion of the book is dedicated to the discussion of dialogue in public policy discussions, there are a number of situations and principles that can directly relate to both business and personal situations. This is a very well written book, and while not a “light read”, I would recommend this book for anyone who is interested in better understanding the strategies for opening opportunities in their organization for better dialogue. The practical examples provide a good foundation for applying the principles in any situation.