Communication can be defined as the exchange of information. In an oral communication or a dialogue the exchange involves more than just what we say and what we hear. It also necessitates a correlation between what is spoken and what is heard. The key to an effective dialogue depends on the understanding of that relationship – the roles played by intent, emotion, empathy and clarity. Mark Twain once rightly said “If you have nothing to say, say nothing”. 

Every effective conversation or a dialogue needs a purpose. Without purpose it becomes like a kite without strings devoid of any direction. Some may enjoy if you adorn the outfit of a dilettante, hip hopping from one topic to the other. But others may search for an objective in this verbal barter. Why is an effective dialogue so difficult to achieve? Is it because the way we perceive things are entirely different for different people? Let us analyze this a bit further. In a quintessential effective dialogue class the instructor asks the students to close their eyes. Each one is then given a piece of plain white sheet of identical dimension. The instructor then asks the students to fold the paper twice and then tear a portion from the left top corner and then from the right bottom corner, sill keeping their eyes closed. They are then asked to open their eyes and compare their unfolded sheets. To their amazement each paper projects a different design though the instruction given by the instructor were the same for all. It all depends on how you assimilate and comprehend on what is being offered to you as a dialogue. 

Every effective dialogue should have an objective and a goal. Before we begin a conversation we need to define those end objectives and goals, if any, in advance. The goals will help us to program ourselves as to what we need to say and how effectively we need to deliver it. It also helps us to anticipate the responses made by the listener and fine tune our dialogues accordingly. It is perfectly ok to begin a dialogue with exchange of some social pleasantries. But we need to keep this part very brief and it should be immediately followed by the real reason for the conversation. 

How we say is often very important as what we say? If we do not take emotions into consideration, the dialogue may take an unpleasant turn. We need to govern what goes out of our mouth or else a dialogue can easily transmogrify into an argument. By saying something we communicate both a thought and a feeling. By addressing the emotional tangent, we are taking into consideration how the listener is going to react to what is being said. One technique is to list all the things that needs o be said and remove the ones which will invite the wrath or bring resentment in others. If you want to convey something unpleasant to someone, structure the dialogue in such a way so that it is not a personal attack and counter balance it with some positive connotations. 

An effective dialogue is an exchange. Even if we initiate the dialogue, at some point we need to be a patient listener. The best strategy to use is empathy. Henry Ford once said ” If there is any great secret for success in life , it lies in the ability to put yourself in other person’s place and see things from their point of view …as well as your own”. Effective dialogue is a learned skill. You need to be clear and articulate in expressing your emotions and feelings and should not shroud your conversation in antagonism. Be empathetic and receptive to what the other person has to say and reciprocate in a subtle but effective way. 

In this day of email, it is even more important that we are cognitive of our words, not just what we say (verbal and written), but also on how it could be interpreted. Through effective dialogues, by paying attention to what is being said and how it will be interpreted, we will be able to win the hearts of a plethora of people who comes across our point of contact, everyday.

By: Mr. Crisanto M. Baluyot | Master Teacher II | Bonifacio Camacho National High School | Abucay, Bataan

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