Dialogue ground rules

Junior (College 3rd year) ・Communications&Media ・APA ・3 Sources

Essentially, dialogue is the art of talking between two or more people that involves an idea exchange. Dialogue, according to Swidler, L. (1983), is basically a discourse between two or more people who have different points of view on a subject in order to enable one person learn from the other in order to guide change and growth. When the people involved have preferences that are not too diverse from one another, debate helps parties reach conclusions by providing knowledge and allowing them to exchange personal opinions. 1990 (Austen-Smith, D.).

The Cambridge Dictionary defines discussion as the action of people conversing and exchanging ideas about a specific subject. Dialogue done in a team is significant for its growth and change as it gives an opportunity for learning among its members. With a team focusing on inquiry through dialogue, questioning and reflection; individual members are able to clarify their values, beliefs, knowledge and personal assumption in issues that will help in evaluation thus ability to learn and change. (Preskill, H., & Torres, R. T., 1999)

Dialogue will therefore direct change in perception and practices among the team members, give them new opportunities and strengthen their performances. To reach a level of dialogue where there is significant learning and consequently change, there needs to be set ground rules amongst the team members. These rules need to be set with the participation of all members solely to avoid conflicts and facilitate maximum participation. These rules should allow members to freely air their opinions openly without discrimination or intimidation. Ground rules should be designed in a way that the group reaches unanimity in the issues of discussion rather than causing differences in their beliefs of perception on the topic of discussion.

These rules should allow for a facilitator who directs the agenda of the conversation. He/she should allocate estimates of time required for each topic in the discussion and direct the time each member takes to air their particular views. In cases where there is conflict of ideas or among group members, the facilitator should be able to step in and resolve the impasse allowing them to reach a common ground. At the end of the conversation, the team coordinator should ascertain a common direction/decision/agreement among all the members of the team. This should be able to convince individual members in order for learning and changing their previous perceptions.

Designing an effective dialogue session for a team must therefore incorporate ground rules for the conversation. This will specify time limits required by each party in the conversation to air their views, mechanisms for conflict resolution, ascertaining facts about a topic that should be evidenced based and settling on unanimous conclusions of the conversation. This will enable correcting beliefs or opinions among members about a topic that may be wrong thus facilitating change and learning.

With set group rules agreed by all members, it is easier to converse smoothly to a logical conclusion unlike a case without rules for limitations and directions. Devoid of these rules, there is likelihood of confrontation among members during the conversation as individuals with differing beliefs about a topic could easily disagree thus limiting learning and change. A conversation without ground rules also lacks in direction and it is often time consuming due to possible conflicts without mechanisms for resolving them for a common ground.


Swidler, L. (1983). The dialogue decalogue: Ground rules for interreligious dialogue. Horizons, 10(2), 348-351.

Austen-Smith, D. (1990). Information transmission in debate. American Journal of political science, 124-152.

Preskill, H., & Torres, R. T. (1999). Evaluative inquiry for learning in organizations. Sage.

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