Contemplative Dialogue

At its best, dialogue leads to a common understanding as people with different gifts, points of view and values grow in capacity and willingness to think creatively together. The practice of Contemplative Dialogue supports building a shared approach that is effective, practical, and better allows us to bring our best selves together and to participate in cultivating a creative common ground.

General Information

The roots of the word dialogue come from the Greek words dia and logos. Dia means “through”; logos translates to “word” or “meaning.” In essence, a dialogue is a flow of meaning.

  • The purpose of dialogue is to create ‘shared meaning’ or coherence in a group.
  • The challenge of dialogue is to simply allow multiple points of view to be.

Contemplative Dialogue is about listening to your own thinking in the silence and to others’ thinking when they are speaking

 The Big Picture

Listening is difficult because we are always projecting our opinions, ideas, and prejudices- when they dominate there is no listening at all! Small or large, we all live in a community of some type, and sometimes in many different communities throughout our days and weeks. If we learn to truly dialogue with one another on a local scale, we can effect change on a global scale. Homes, boardrooms and national conversations would all benefit from the principles of Contemplative Dialogue, sometimes called Respectful Conversation.

The GNSH Response

By practicing the principles of Contemplative Dialogue the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart strive to enhance our mutual understanding of each other and improve the quality of our Congregational relationships. It helps us to live our Chapter Directive “Cultivate relational integrity in all our interactions.”

 Basic Ground Rules:

  • Speak slowly: Relax, speak and listen from an inner attitude of quiet contemplation
  • Make eye-contact: Maintain a shared center; remain fully present in the group.
  • Speak briefly: Speak what matters from your deepest place (your contemplative center) then STOP
  • Create shared meaning: Build on what has already been shared when you speak
  • Listen deeply: Let the words disappear by pausing and returning to inner silence.
  • Stay curious: ask questions to the group as a way to explore differences and limit assumptions
  • Remain open: Speak with vulnerability, not righteousness allowing for different versions of the same reality
  • Be accepting: hold the tension of someone with an opposing point of view without reacting to it.
  • Hold your own understandings lightly, tentatively. Relax!

 Words to Contemplate:

“The dialogue isn’t over until sometime after we all leave.” –Doug Ross, A Tao of Dialogue

For More Information:

Pope Benedict on effective communication
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Interfaith organization which teaches and promotes contemplative dialogue
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The Center for Contemplative Dialogue
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Quaker based Center for the Contemplative mind in Society
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The Grey Nuns