Constructive Dialog

There are several barriers to having a constructive dialog. One is closed-mindedness or a need to be right in spite of contradictory evidence. The other is “artificial harmony” or the need to avoid potentially upsetting others.

We’ve seen teams experience the effect of both and just one barrier. The need for someone to be right is both easier to identify and easier to correct. Everyone on a team generally knows when one person is suffering from a need to be right and corrective action is fairly straightforward.

Artificial harmony, in contrast, invades a team using stealth and before the team knows it, members are sacrificing constructive dialog in the service of being polite, not questioning results, agreeing even when they don’t, etc. In a phrase, the team “avoids conflict” and with it, constructive dialog.

If you see artificial harmony invading your team meetings, challenge the speaker, politely but forcefully. If trust is sufficient and people generally put the needs of the organization first, your challenges will be appreciated.

In a recent team meeting that one of us facilitated, people were talking about how they trusted other team members to do their job well. One team member pointed out that that was not a good idea; that everyone’s performance should be probed, not in the form of a personal attack, but as a challenge to reveal their efforts on behalf of the team.


The quotes:

“In true dialogue, both sides are willing to change. ~ Nhat Hanh

“To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” ~ William Shakespeare

Nhat Hanh Quotes. (n.d.). Retrieved October 11, 2017, from Website:

William Shakespeare Quotes. (n.d.). RetrievedOctober 11, 2017, from Website: