The Magic of Dialogue: Transforming Conflict to Cooperation

Daniel Yankelovich (2001)

You might think that the observation that "dialogue is essential in business", ranks in the pantheon of heroic insights alongside the perception that clothes can help keep you warm in winter. A whole book about it may be stating the obvious at some length. But according to Daniel Yankelovitch, while paying lip service to the idea, most people don't really do dialogue properly. They go through the motions but fail to get to the essence of what real dialogue is about and so miss out on its benefits. It's a bit like breathing; an everyday activity which we can all do effortlessly, but which some yogics have transformed into a demanding discipline, which produces a powerful array of positive outcomes.

Yankelovitch is founder of US public opinion firm Yankelovitch and partners and a professor at the University of California. He argues that in a world where traditional lines of authority have broken down, which now depends on consensus, where creativity is at a premium and shared corporate visions are essential for success, dialogue is needed as never before. In his terms, dialogue isn't just another form of conversation or discussion but a highly disciplined form of communication with almost magical results. It can transform relationships, resolve apparently insoluble problems, galvanise organisations and create an environment conducive to innovation.

Dialogue means that, "I do not, while talking with you, selectively tune out views with which I disagree, nor do I busy myself marshalling arguments to rebut you while only half attending to what you have to say, nor do I seek to reinforce my prejudices. Instead, I fully take on your viewpoint, engaging with it in the deepest sense of the term. Each of us internalises the views of the other to enhance our mutual understanding", writes Yankelovitch. He goes into some detail about the common mistakes people make--"listening without hearing", "having different starting points" etc, and he shows how to conduct "dialogue" in everyday situations.

Although this is presented as a business book, it is really a book for everybody; junior and senior, within organisations and outside, in business or in personal life. This book reminds and refocuses the reader on a basic and very powerful life skill. It should be compulsory reading for all. --Alex Benady (as publlished on

Dialogue is a vital and undervalued skill
Dialogue is not just another form of conversation or discussion, but a highly disciplined form of communication that can produce extraordinary results. In today's diverse, less hierarchical business world there is a pressing need for people to argue less and 'dialogue' more. New circumstances and widely dispersed organisations with different objectives and interests oblige managers to make decisions in a climate of misunderstanding. Dialogue is the key to success - it isn't an esoteric intellectual excercise, but an everyday, practical skill accessible to everybody. But it doesn't come naturally to people any more, even though there is something unique about dialogue when it is done well. The Magic of Dialogue shows how extraordinary results can be achieved. Dialogue is a skill that can be acquired, just as negotiating skills can be acquired. Without it, misunderstandings arise and problems grow. (From the publlisher)

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