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Alone Together

In this crazy age of social everything, many of us find ourselves “alone together.” This phrase, coined by Sherry Turkle, founder and director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, describes her view of the delusion of companionship we fall prey to as we continue to “connect” on social media, gathering thousands of Facebook friends, confusing Tweets and posts with authentic communication. Technology is seductive, as it often times meets our human vulnerability. At one level it feels great to have tens of thousands of connections in all of your social networks, right? It can be a real ego boost. It can make us feel less lonely. But in reality, these digital connections offer the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. Case in point: If you have 7,895 Twitter followers, how many of those people do you actually know? How many do you associate with at an intimate level? How many of them are truly “friends”?

While we can point a finger of blame towards social network platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for getting us into this divided connected-unconnected mess, nearly 30 years ago, David Bohm wrote a proposal for a solution to address societal problems based on what he was observing in society.

And what was Bohm observing?

Isolation and fragmentation

And that is the place from which “Bohm Dialogue” was born – a potential solution where equality, open space and appreciating different worldviews formed the most important foundations of what it means to be in relationship with one another.

Isolation and fragmentation. Connected and disconnected. Alone and together.

It doesn’t seem like much has changed…

Yet it was David Bohm’s belief that if Dialogue groups were experienced on a sufficiently wide scale, they could help to overcome the separation and division he observed was inherent in humanity. He believed this to his core – so much so that he put a capital “D” in Dialogue to distinguish it from other forms of communication.

I believe that Bohm was really on to something. And who am I to argue with a famous quantum physicist? But more importantly, here’s why Dialogue is so powerful…

It’s because Dialogue has nothing to do with dialogue. While Dialogue certainly involves conversation, it’s something much deeper than people talking together.

Dialogue is about mindsets. Dialogue is about mindfulness. Dialogue is about interacting differently within yourself and with others.

Consider some of the principles that underlie Bohm’s process of Dialogue:

  • Reflective Listening

  • Suspending Judgement

  • Noticing Assumptions

  • Being Present

  • Equality

These ingredients alone create the recipe for deeper understanding in any relationship.

Imagine yourself listening deeply to fully understand the different viewpoint of your colleague and not judging it all while paying attention to your own assumptions about what he or she is sharing with you. What could you learn?

Consider a meeting where everyone around the boardroom table is seen as a peer over role and function in a space that is open for every voice to be heard. How could this better inform your decisions?

Envision being fully present with your employee, spouse or child. How could that help you to create more meaning in your most significant relationships?

Now imagine that you’re on Facebook and someone has sent you a friend request. How are you discerning whether you will accept or decline that request? And if you accept it, how do you intend to get to know that “friend,” learning about what is important to that person? Excites him? Scares her?

David Bohm spoke about Dialogue groups as something physical – human bodies coming together in a group to have conversations in a different way. Today we have a virtual reality, often coming together via Skype or Zoom, participating with one another through online groups and communities.

Regardless of how you come together with other people – physically or virtually – Bohm’s proposed solution to society holds great bearing. I would offer that it’s not about how you connect (in person, phone or screen), but from where you connect (assumptions, mindsets and beliefs).

And it begins with YOU.

In this era of social interaction, what are you building?

Links? Or Relationships?

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