More Articles and Tools

These articles, worksheets, and graphics describe some of the ideas, values, and theories that underlie our approach to dialogue. They also explain some of the skills and practices that we promote. The materials on this page come from a variety of organizations and authors. You may wish to use them in several ways�reading them on your own, studying them with a friend, using them to lead training exercises, or sharing them with participants in groups that you facilitate.

  • Defining Dialogue — A handout from the from the Public Conversations Project that describes what we mean by dialogue and how dialogue contrasts with debate.
  • Balancing Inquiry and Advocacy — A short article that provides detailed, practical guidance for talking across differences about the difficult issues, using the key skills of “inquiry” and “advocacy.” It describes techniques you can use to express your own viewpoint and concerns and ask skillful questions in ways that lead to mutual learning and problem-solving. The article is an excerpt from the Fifth Discipline Fieldbook, a classic guide for improving the functioning of companies and organizations.
  • Graphic: Charting Inquiry and Advocacy — A table showing the varied ways that inquiry and advocacy can be combined in a conversation. See the blog post in which this table is embedded: “Good leaders balance advocacy and inquiry to resolve conflict.”
  • Cartoon: Anatomy of a Conversation — A cartoon illustrating four key principles for holding constructive conversations across political differences, published in the Christian Science Monitor just before the 2004 U.S. presidential election. Also see the commentary that the cartoon accompanied, “How to break the argument habit”.
  • The Ladder of Inference — The “ladder of inference” is a tool to help people explore how their experiences, assumptions, and actions lead them from observing the world to forming conclusions. This short article, an excerpt from the Fifth Discipline Fieldbook, explains how you can use the ladder to become more aware of your own thought processes, make your thinking and reasoning more visible to others, and better understand other people’s thinking.
  • “Difficult Conversations” Study Guide — A brief summary and study guide for the classic book Difficult Conversations, How to Discuss what Matters Most, by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen, and Roger Fisher. As described in Publisher’s Weekly: “Bringing together the insights of such diverse disciplines as law, organizational behavior, cognitive, family and social psychology and ‘dialogue’ studies, Stone, Patton and Heen, who teach at Harvard Law School and the Harvard Negotiation Project, illustrate how to handle the challenges involved in effectively resolving ‘difficult conversations,’ whether in an interpersonal, business or political context.” The study guide provides an overview of the book, and it contains questions and exercises that you can use to improve your communication skills.

Jewish Resources for Dialogue

  • Brit Lashon HaTov: Covenant for Communicating in a Kehillah Kedoshah (sacred community) A set of communal guidelines, rooted in traditional Jewish texts, for communicating across differences in respecful, constructive ways. This document was developed at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in New York City in 2001 and has been adopted by other synagogues as well.
  • “The Rodef Shalom Communication Agreement,” from the Pardes Center for Judaism and Conflict Resolution.
  • More coming soon.