Dialogue: A Habit Of The Heart with John Backman

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What often passes for dialogue these days is negotiation or debate. However, John Backman feels the true aim of dialogue isn’t about convincing another to see things the way you see them, “Dialogue is aimed at mutual understanding …to nudge [toward the] reality of the situation as it is. [I]t's about understanding one another much more deeply so that, if we do have to act together, we might be able to take up joint action.” If we walk away from the table, agreeing to disagree, we cut ourselves off from each other and cannot tap into the deep wisdom of a diversity of viewpoints. Backman feels that dialogue, as a habit of the heart, has a spiritual dimension and is a place in which our deepest yearnings and our deepest self come into play. He gives many examples of why it is important to hone and practice our deep dialogue skills. He feels we must make ourselves ready to enjoy the fruits of connection with others at any moment, whether it’s conversing with a stranger on a bus or at a gathering with extended family over dinner. We must allow ourselves to be vulnerable, curious, and touched by the things that we hear whenever the opportunity arises. (hosted by Justine Willis Toms)


John Backman is a member of the board of directors of the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation and creator of The Dialogue Venture. He writes extensively on contemplative spirituality and its ability to help us dialogue across divides. His work has been published in several faith-based and secular national publications. He’s an associate in the Order of the Holy Cross, a community of Benedictine Episcopal monasteries in North America and South Africa.

He’s the author of:

To find out more about John Backman’s work go to www.dialogueventure.com.

Topics Explored in This Dialogue

  • Why dialogue is neither a negotiation or a debate
  • Why conflict aversion and agreeing to disagree too often cuts us off from one another
  • How can we come together even when we deeply disagree
  • How Backman’s perspective was turned around when attending a gathering to dialogue on issues relating to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender)
  • How dialogue can take us beyond either/or thinking
  • How catch phrases short-cut the dialogue process e.g. pro-choice or pro-life
  • What are ways to keep the dialogue open
  • Why developing our capacity for deep listening is important
  • How, when we are in the presence of deep listening, we hear ourselves in new ways

Host: Justine Willis Toms   Interview Date: 4/27/2013   Program Number: 3470