Communication and dialogue

By GF Staff

The way we communicate with each other makes a difference. And there is no single ‘best’ way to communicate

In the Nepali context ‘communication’ (sanchãr) is normally understood in terms of the ‘mass media’ (aam sanchãr). ‘Dialogue’ (samwãd) as a medium of communication has been widely used by the Nepali media to denote ‘serious talks’ or ‘negotiation’. Dialogue can be a part of communication when the latter is understood as an umbrella term. The term has multiple interpretations in the Nepali context. In many cases, any exchange of different views is called dialogue, which has been widely used in the fields of conflict management or peacebuilding.

There are number of words in Nepali, which are usually used synonymously to ‘dialogue’ such as:

bãrta (negotiation or talks); antarkriya (interaction); kurãkãni/bãtchit (conversation/chat); chhalphal (discussion); bahas, tarka (argument); Although not synonymous to dialogue, sometime advocacy (pairawi); and debate (bãdbibãd) is also understood as dialogue.

 

In an ideal situation, dialogue may be defined as a continued interactive process where two or more parties–with different backgrounds, aspirations, necessities, principles and perceptions–have serious problems but are inter-dependent, work together with honesty and open mindsets and share their views to possibly discover shared point of collaboration, while accepting and respecting their differences as well.

Dialogue is a continued process rather than a one-off event and should not be perceived same as ‘talks’.  Usually the talks–influenced by factionalism, immediate personal and party interests–have not been able to find a long-term solution.

This does not mean that the process of dialogue replaces formal political process or the flow of informal conversations.  They are equally relevant to brush aside the mutual differences. But the discussions focused on allegations, fulfilling personal interests and finger pointing are tricksters, and do not yield any result. In order to find a long term solution, it is important that the concerned parties enter the process of mutual and constructive dialogue, in which they honestly listen to each other, and delve deeper into the issues by coming out from the box of one-sided conversations.

In a dialogue, it is important to think of what is right and wrong, instead of who is right and wrong. We may use dialogue to refer to honest, deep, empathetic, and sustained interactions with ‘others’ for enhancing mutual understanding and trust, and optimistically exploring options for co-existence and collaboration, while respecting the differences that may persist.

Dialogue is an inclusive process which brings together a diverse set of voices to create a miniature of the larger society; help identifying new approaches to address common challenges, address the root causes of a crisis, not just the symptoms on the surface as well as help develop a sense of joint ownership of the process.

Dialogue entails learning, not just talking. The process is not just about sitting around a table, but changing the way people talk, think and communicate with one another. Dialogue recognizes one another’s humanity. Participants must be willing to show empathy toward one another, recognize differences as well as areas of common ground, and demonstrate a capacity for change.

Dialogue stresses a long-term perspective. Other forms of conversation tend to focus on the symptoms rather than the root causes of problems. Sustainable solutions require time and patience.

Conversation is an important act in dialogue. But dialogue does not necessarily only entail verbal action.  Non-Verbal action (body language, gestures, playing sports, watching movies and having fun together, undertaking joint projects) can sometimes help people develop trust and mutual understandings more than mere conversations.

Interaction includes the action of inter-conversation, but suggests the possibilities and needs for other types of mutual social actions too.

In a divided society, constructive and result-oriented dialogue rarely happens. Dialogue, carried out after a sound groundwork and systematic planning, actually forms a solid base for holding a formal negotiation. Instead of replacing other political and diplomatic process, it would be complimentary to the process. Dialogue is not held for advantage of one party to emerge as a winner; rather it is carried out to reach a consensus with all the stakeholders to begin the journey of collaboration for a common goal.