Online Dialogue in Practice and Forgiveness at Work


This is a group task for a course Dialogue: Constructive Talk at Work. We had the whole course on Zoom. We are 14 students from very different countries and backgrounds: Finland, Pakistan, Vietnam, China, Albania and India. Participants represented multiple disciplines: Education, Communication,  Social Sciences, Project Management, Human-Computer Interaction, ICT, Software and Mechanical Engineering, Health Sciences. 

The main point of this group task was to learn about dialogue and how it works on a real situation.  In the beginning of the course we started the work on dialogue by discussing values.

It was obvious that there are many interconnected values we have to define when searching for common ground and common language in dialogue. It also provided us with a rough playground from where to start discussing as we all familiarized ourselves with the theme. This is why we decided to take forgiveness in the work place as the topic for our practice dialogue. We decided to record two of our Zoom meetings in which we had dialogues about forgiveness in work life. 

We divided our group to two smaller groupsone group was having a dialogue and the other was observing. That way we could also learn how to listen and observe the dialogical process and our own assumptions and judgement that may have risen while oberving and listening. After the dialogue we practiced metadialogue and talked about what happened during the discussion and what aspects we noticed that either supported or hindered the dialogue: 

  1. Length of the speaking turnsshorter the turn, the easier it was to connect to what was said 
  2. Observers expressed difficulties to stay attentive to long messages from the dialogue participant. 
  3. Many good points may get lost with too long turns, because the others can choose only some of them to the further dialogue. 
  4. Challenge to talk to the center 
  5. Language differences which were discussed on the first day of the course were noted to be more pronounced. An example, is to find a word synonym of ‘forgiveness’ in the Finnish language. 
  6. Observing section of the group had a longing to put forth their thought and express themselves during the dialogue. 
  7. Zoom environment: lack of body language
  8. Letting out of comfort zone 
  9. Due to the nature of dialogue, there can be many ideas generated, and this can lead to difficulties in summing them up. 
  10. The challenge of multi-person conversation 
  11. The value of open questions to move the dialogue ahead. 
  12. Communicate with a clear purpose (goal) 
  13. Don’t be too subjective and bring personal emotionsbalance between expressing own thoughts and inquiring 
  14. Don’t be too self-centered 


Background reading

Schein, E. H. (1993). On dialogue, culture, and organizational learning. Organizational Dynamics, 22(2), 40-51.

Stone, M. (2002), Forgiveness in the workplace. Industrial and Commercial Training, 34(7).