Meeting Point – a reflection on dialogue

Nick AdlingtonBlog

Today was the second day of three as go-dialogue delivers Meeting Point sessions in locations across London. The programme is an exploration of dialogue and community in a diverse and ever-changing world. Driving into London to run the sessions, I was struck by the amount of high rise building going up either side of the road, and the ever growing and developing infrastructure of the city. It brought to mind how the world constantly develops in so many different areas, and yet relative to this, I wondered how far our skills in relationship building and dialogue are developing?

As a mediator and counsellor I employ and promote dialogue in my work with clients. Dialogue is the method through which relationship is developed and personal growth propagated. For people in conflict, dialogue allows for a good enough mutual understanding to evolve, which in turn allows for a shift in attitude and position of the individuals concerned. Yet outside the therapy room and beyond the mediator’s meeting room, how far are we promoting and investing in the skills of relationship building? In a way, Meeting Point is currently investigating the field conditions through which the skills and techniques of dialogue can develop outside of such formal environments.

Today, sitting at the Meeting Points at Kings Cross and Euston, I held a lot of doubt. There were many people around, people moving back and forth. Passers-by looked at the go-dialogue sign that invites them to sit and take part, some took photos of it. Yet I imagined that it was perhaps a significant step from seeing the sign, to then sitting and engaging in relationship. A friend came by and sat for a while. We recounted tales of being at profession based exhibitions, and not wanting to get too close to a stand or stall for fear of being drawn into dialogue, and perhaps a sales pitch. Maybe this is partly where the skills of dialogue, and dialogue as relationship building, have been de-railed. In the modern world in which we live, human exchange is so often based around a pitch, from one person to another. We want to sell something to someone, or at least we’re looking for the measureable gain as we come together in relationship.

So what about when the gain is different, perhaps it’s peace of mind at a dispute resolved, or an understanding of one’s internal world that was previously out of awareness? What then are the field conditions that we need to be creating in our societies to foster this type of dialogue? What I realised today is that such questions are all part of the Meeting Point experiment.

A couple dropped by the Meeting Point this morning in Kings Cross and we had a short but enjoyable chat about grandchildren; and a lady brought her experiences from working as a nurse in a GP surgery and the shortage of spaces for those who wish to talk about issues that are weighing more heavily on their mind.

At lunchtime, I sat on a bench in the park outside Euston Station and had an exciting and rich conversation with Marina, a South African by birth, living in Rome, and on holiday in London. We shared our views on different issues of the day, from the respective weather of Italy and London, to the economics of Brexit. I was alive to our differences, and we negotiated these through, I think, an openness, and by bringing quite a degree of energy into our contact. In this context, perhaps some of the beliefs I may hold about being in relationship with another, and impact, receded into the background.

As Marina was met by her friend I set up the chairs and sat down for another more formal Meeting Point session. Two couples at different times came to sit and take the weight off their feet. Each conversation held a different pace and pitch, and in the second there were quite long periods of silence. It reminded me of the woman yesterday who came, sat, and quietly read her magazine.

Halfway through the afternoon session, the occasional pitter patter of droppings alerted me to a flock of pigeons in the tree above. Whilst recognising the responsibility we hold as individuals to get some of our basic needs met, I did feel a little relief when after 90 minutes I packed up the chairs without any of the Meeting Point participants having been hit from above.

The doubt concerning Meeting Point as a potential forum for growth and change remained with me throughout most of the day. But I was lucky enough to have the comforting words of Rollo May with me,

A curious paradox characteristic of every kind of courage here confronts us. It is the seeming contradiction that we must be fully committed, but we must also be aware at the same time that we might possibly be wrong. People who claim to be absolutely convinced that their stand is the only right one are dangerous.” May R., The Courage to Create

I would welcome thoughts and feedback on Meeting Point – please do get in touch here.

If you’d like to be involved in running a Meeting Point, contribute towards the costs, support the logistics, or help in any other way, then please do get in touch. You'll find more information here...