To dialogue, to discuss, to debate, or to negotiate…?
In June 2012 Religions for Peace – European Interfaith Youth Network (RfP-EIYN) gathered a relatively small group composed of members of her network in Norway. Myself, representing WSCF-E, came there really curious to get to know people representing such religions and branches of religions as Zoroastrianism, Sufism or the Maronite Church. A few days spent there was not the time to deepen the knowledge about these religions unfortunately. However, what I found eventually even more enriching was learning about the how, the way of getting to know one another by speaking about speaking. Forgive me using these un-exact terms here; that was done with the real necessity.
The very first introductory session was led by Dag Hareide, director of Nansen Academy in Norway, the Norwegian Humanistic Academy. He opened the Dialog seminar by a presentation of four ways or means of speaking. These were: discussion, debate, dialog and negotiation. He attributed each with the purpose – discussion with clarification (as it is used in an academic environment where personal involvement is absent as was noted), debate with the purpose of letting the standpoint to be tested against other viewpoints, negotiation having the purpose of agreement and dialog having the goal of understanding the other. It appeared there was an assumption that not each way of speaking is generally preferred.
Though it may appear as not such a cool topic, what was presented was very thought provoking and very stimulating, especially as it was the beginning of that seminar. I had little difficulties to fully accept what was presented, and so did one or two others by raising our views. What we were communicating was, in a nutshell, that the purpose of speaking is not to necessarily influence manners accompanying that speaking and thus making it look negative. Our manners and the non-verbal side of communication thus can be changing the very nature of speaking, regardless of the purpose of it. Debate thus does not need to be viewed as so negative tool in comparison to dialogue.
I think what was happening at this very first introductory session was possibly a debate with elements of dialog where views were brought up and talked about with respect. This speaking about speaking was really interesting thing in itself. What is and was also very important is that on that first day of the Dialog seminar the presenter (Dag) was very perceptive to what was coming from his audience as a response to the very thoughts he presented.
The seminar itself was not providing so much space for exchanging knowledge about myriads of religions whose representatives were there; that was not that much of its purpose and it is good it was so. The seminar and the people, who led it like Dag, did spark interesting thoughts off the group by letting us speak as it happened there. In addition, we had experience of a very good role model of such a speaking.
Zuzana Babicová (Slovakia) is the WSCF Europe Events Coordinator.