Inclusive communities and conflictual dialogue
I haven't had a chance yet to respond to Hoggett's article "Overcoming the Desire for Misunderstanding through Dialogue." I was initially drawn to this article because of the title: the DESIRE for misunderstanding? Aren't we all running around trying to AVOID misunderstanding? And, I am intrigued by his argument that what some would call "dysfunctional" communication between members of a community or a work team (or what have you), is actually essential for functionality.
I find his argument very compelling based on a few experiences I have had in my own life. For one, living in an intentional community for three years after college really forces me to consider this concept seriously. Additionally, this resonates with my time working for Witness for Peace in Colombia and Nicaragua - both circumstances in which I was working and living with my workmates, and our office was in our shared house.
In both of those situations, the intentional community and shared living/working space with Witness for Peace, I found that the worst times were the times of less communication and the best, healthiest times we had together were when we were able to communicate about hard issues and then move beyond them. Each time of moving beyond really felt like a step, a building block to a healthier and stronger community.
That all said, I am still left with the question, where is the line? When do we stop learning from difficult dialogue and start just simply frustrating each other and hitting dead ends? There were times when I was working in Colombia when that difficult dialogue felt it might actually be just simply too hard and not productive - and that it in fact never produced growth, but rather negative stagnation. Some of this I think was related to the way that difficult dialogue was facilitated and some of it was because of a lack of good will among those engaged in the dialogue. However, I think Hoggett is on to something very insightful about group dynamics - and perhaps very useful in many work settings where so many people tend to really shy away from difficult dialogue.