- The way I see it:
Maria Popova's article based on the analysis of On Dialogue, by David Bohm could be one of the must reads. Specially in this crucial moment we are living in.
Difficult to contribute in a particular way to this enlightening article, so I humbly quote Bohm's explanation:
“Communication” … is based on the Latin commun and the suffix “ie” which is similar to “fie,” in that it means “to make or to do.” So one meaning of “to communicate” is “to make something common,” i.e., to convey information or knowledge from one person to another in as accurate a way as possible. Thus, in a dialogue, each person does not attempt to make common certain ideas or items of information that are already known to him. Rather, it may be said that the two people are making something in common, i.e., creating something new together."
The whole article is worth reading if you need to understand the difference. Too bad that the ones that most need to read it, won't. But they maybe will.
On Dialogue wrote by the legendary physicists David Bohm (December 20, 1917–October 27, 1992) is a slim, potent collection of Bohm’s essays and lectures from the 1970s and 1980s, exploring the alchemy of human communication, what is keeping us from listening to one another, and how we can transcend those barriers to mutual understanding.
A dialogue is a commitment to mutual contemplation of viewpoints and considered response. And the dearth of this commitment in our present culture is the reason why we continue to find ourselves sundered by confrontation and paralyzed by the divisiveness of “us vs. them” narratives.
Suggesting that the difficulty might arise from our “crude and insensitive manner of thinking about communication and talking about it,” Bohm sets out to restore the necessary subtlety by reclaiming the true meaning of communication and its supreme mastery, dialogue:
“Communication” … is based on the Latin commun and the suffix “ie” which is similar to “fie,” in that it means “to make or to do.” So one meaning of “to communicate” is “to make something common,” i.e., to convey information or knowledge from one person to another in as accurate a way as possible.
Thus, in a dialogue, each person does not attempt to make common certain ideas or items of information that are already known to him. Rather, it may be said that the two people are making something in common, i.e., creating something new together.
But of course such communication can lead to the creation of something new only if people are able freely to listen to each other, without prejudice, and without trying to influence each other. Each has to be interested primarily in truth and coherence, so that he is ready to drop his old ideas and intentions, and be ready to go on to something different, when this is called for."
He observes that these ideas are rooted in assumptions we hold about various aspects of life — from politics to economics to religion — and those assumptions are what we call our “opinions.” Four centuries after Galileo admonished against the folly of believing one’s preconceptions, Bohm argues that this tendency to cling to our existing opinions is a kind of self-protective “block” we use as a hedge against our fear of uncertainty. But in blocking uncertainty, we also block our ability to listen. Fertile dialogue, he points out, requires that we first become aware of our own “blocks,” then be willing to surmount them.
“Dialogue” comes from the Greek word dialogos. Logos means “the word,” or in our case we would think of the “meaning of the word.” And dia means “through” — it doesn’t mean “two.” A dialogue can be among any number of people, not just two. Even one person can have a sense of dialogue within himself, if the spirit of the dialogue is present. The picture or image that this derivation suggests is of a stream of meaning flowing among and through us and between us. This will make possible a flow of meaning in the whole group, out of which may emerge some new understanding. It’s something new, which may not have been in the starting point at all. It’s something creative. And this shared meaning is the “glue” or “cement” that holds people and societies together.
Contrast this with the word “discussion,” which has the same root as “percussion” and “concussion.” It really means to break things up. It emphasizes the idea of analysis, where there may be many points of view, and where everybody is presenting a different one — analyzing and breaking up. That obviously has its value, but it is limited, and it will not get us very far beyond our various points of view. Discussion is almost like a ping-pong game, where people are batting the ideas back and forth and the object of the game is to win or to get points for yourself…
In a dialogue, however, nobody is trying to win. Everybody wins if anybody wins. There is a different sort of spirit to it. In a dialogue, there is no attempt to gain points, or to make your particular view prevail. Rather, whenever any mistake is discovered on the part of anybody, everybody gains. It’s a situation called win-win, whereas the other game is win-lose — if I win, you lose. But a dialogue is something more of a common participation, in which we are not playing a game against each other, but with each other. In a dialogue, everybody wins."
True dialogue, Bohm argues, not only leads us to question the very assumptions upon which our opinions are built but invites a continual act of self-revision at the level of the thought process itself — the process of which our opinions are a product. This self-revision takes place both on the individual level and on the collective level.
Noting that we engage in two kinds of thought, individual and collective, Bohm points out that most of our individual assumptions are the product of our cultural conditioning and our “collective background.
Those intentions operate on what Bohm calls the “tacit level” — not the level of our conscious awareness but someplace deeper, more intuitive, and almost automatic, of which we only have a vague conscious sense.