Shared understanding – resolving differences with dialogue

The way you communicate as environmental managers, or as participants in resource management processes, can result in greatly different environmental management outcomes. Communication approaches range from debating, through discussion, to dialogue. Being aware of, and able to identify and employ, the different communication approaches will make you a more effective environmental practitioner... with dialogue being particularly important in developing shared understandings.

Developing shared understanding is an ability – a capacity for us to be able to do something – and sometimes a level of effort needs to be expended to achieve understanding. When we come across people who seem to think very differently from us, especially about things we value, then our natural tendency is to avoid them. We have our position and stay in our comfortable networks of like-minded people. But if we are to ensure that what we value is treasured then we need to understand where other people are coming from. Our emphasis needs to be on resolving differences through dialogue and building relationships around mutual recognition and trust. Dialogue is quite different from discussion and helps us “get to the bottom” of an issue. See our section under ‘Tools and Templates’ on Dialogue.

When we are able to listen to other perspectives we can learn quite different reasons as to why things happen and also get to understand new implications of things we might have done for years that now no longer seem appropriate. Developing a shared understanding means that we may need to change and adapt and modify our thoughts and actions in ways that ensure that we can still reach our goals.

Useful Links:

Tools/Templates: See our handouts on dialogue and the differences between dialogue, debate and discussion


Resources — Please Login or Register to download.

Key idea: Having the skill of dialogue helps build capacity and assists us reach shared understandings
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