The Shape of Dialogue

Dialogue as Intertwining Forces

Dialogue is ultimately shaped by two seemingly opposite forces that work in harmony together. The first force is creative thinking, or divergence, which generates options. This enterprising force works through the power of "Yes," through always adding and extending, through "What ifs" and "Why nots?" This process always creates, always searches, always seeks to invent...though if left unchecked, creative thinking would happily keep on expanding indefinitely. In many conversations, these ideas may feel like unrelated tangents without more direction and focus. This is why the other twin force of critical thinking is needed as well. 

Critical thinking, or convergence, eliminates possibilities. This discerning force works through the power of "No," through subtracting and reducing, through "But what about..." and "That won't work because..." This process measures against logic and reasoning, against costs and criteria, time constraints and resources. Without sufficient options, critical thinking may not lead to actual solutions and agreements. Critical thinking can often feel dismissive and overbearing because its main job is to reject and deny. In dialogue this means that we must be careful about how and when to begin the convergent process leading toward eventual solutions. 

Dialogue Toward Solutions

When critical and creative thinking work well together, they consistently assist each other toward eventual viable solutions. More initial creative options lead to more "wide angle" possibilities, which then lead to more potential solutions. This is why "brainstorming" and similar processes are so important in the beginning, though more criteria must be applied as well. Fewer options and ideas create a narrower cone and fewer possibilities, but may lead to faster solutions. Finding the right balance is the key to better dialogue. Active Listening is a vital component of understanding how and when these types of thinking can be used. Learn more through the International Listening Association.

Learn more about these using my Creative Thinking Cards and the Creative Thinking Cards: Zany Supplemental. Both offer amazing insights into the creative process and hundreds of ideas for writing and other enterprises. Get them bundled here.


Active Listening, creative thinking, critical thinking, dialogue, learning, Socratic Seminar, teaching

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