The spoken word doesn’t have to be a solo experience though. The same can be said for thoughtful discussion between two willing and invested participants. Effective dialogue has a beauty to it as well. It can be intense, elegant, emotional, and exploratory.
Monologue is much like a solo dance. It might have the crowd in awe as the dancer spins and slides across the floor. But it is, by definition, a solo performance. Dialogue is the subtle interaction between dancers as they feed off of each other to create something special together.
When it comes to communication, have we become a world of soloists?
Conversations and discussions these days have taken what I would consider a strange turn for the worse. I am a little mortified at times at what people now consider “interaction” and “communication”. A forum for dialogue becomes an exchange of monologues. It is an opportunity to exchange moments at the lectern, followed by some brief silence between those successive monologues. It is as though two separate threads exist, two parallel worlds that intersect at “hello” and “goodbye”.
Too often, a dance of two becomes two solos.
But we can’t all be soloists all the time.
Why are we seeing the demise of the dance?
1. People have become more polarized on issues. We see this in politics (as but one example) more now than ever. It is more important to be right than to interact and understand and compromise. Covey’s “seek first to understand, then to be understood” is oftentimes forgotten.
2. People interact with the world via status updates. This is a fine example of the “public service announcement” mentality. Hey everyone, here’s what I am doing. See? A status update is just a mini monologue, oftentimes in 140 characters or less.
But one thing hasn’t changed: people have a need to be heard. And in today’s fast-paced world, who is really taking the time to listen empathetically? As I have always said, there is a huge chasm between hearing and listening.
What I find most intriguing is how I have watched the communication dance evolve (or perhaps regress) over my lifetime. We have gone from face-to-face interaction as the only option to an ongoing series of status update-type “interactions”.
There is an art and skill to the communication dance. A true dialogue, a real discussion, is an active process that involves listening, processing, and then verbalizing. It requires reflection and vulnerability, openness and thoughtfulness.
Don’t get me wrong – there is certainly a time for a great solo performance. There is a time for an inspired oratory that rouses the hearts and emotions of the masses – or a few.
Pause for a moment during a discussion and think: are we exchanging solos, or are we creating a piece of art together? You may be surprised at what you find.
Photo credits: puffy eyes