“it’s impossible to win a dialogue”

Delivering the 2011 Ware Lecture, Karen Armstrong brings up the question — “how should we speak to one another?”

She observes that “Very often what we mean by dialogue is bludgeoning someone else to accept our point of view.”

And as this “bludgeoning” progresses, we move to a territory where “It’s not enough for us to seek the truth, we also have to defeat and humiliate our opponents.”

She then suggests that we consider learning from the Socratic approach. “Socrates insisted that at every single point, the conversation must be conducted with absolute courtesy. Nobody must be pushed into a place that he doesn’t want to go, and everybody should listen to one another.”

She points out that for Socrates “it’s impossible to win a dialogue”, because as true dialogue deepens, all those engaged in it, ultimately realize their own ignorance.

William Isaacs writes, in “Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together” that

“Dialogue is….a shared inquiry, a way of thinking and reflecting together.”

It is, as Philippa Perry points out (“How to stay Sane”), a meeting that “can allow us both to expand” — a “growing together in relationship” that becomes less possible “If we get too ‘set in our ways'”, and refuse “to be touched, moved or enlightened by another.”

Peace 😊

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