Frequently Asked Questions
How did the Day of Dialogue concept get started?
The seeds of the Day of Dialogue began in 2004 after IJPC hosted the traveling exhibit “Eyes Wide Open.” The exhibit, on the campus of Xavier University, highlighted the human cost of war in Iraq. Some students of the ROTC had deep misgivings about the exhibit. They expressed their concerns in the student paper and this fostered much debate on campus on the appropriateness of the exhibit in a time of war.
In response, Dr. Dick Gruber invited both Kristen Barker of IJPC and the most vocal student of ROTC to his “History of War and Peace in the Modern World” class for a dialogue. The dialogue was moderated by Karol King, Xavier University Adjunct Professor of Theology. Kristen and the student were both asked to paraphrase the other’s point of view and had a chance to clarify any misperceptions before asking questions of one another. Kristen found this process energizing after having countless energy draining debates on the war. Both felt that the other was really listening and were able to name things they had learned from the other. The students in class were so engaged that most remained after class ended. Because of this experience, Kristen was determined to find a way to make this energizing experience available to as many people as possible. Ultimately, she worked with the IJPC Peace Committee during 2005 to create its own dialogue process – the Day of Dialogue.
What does a Day of Dialogue look like?
It is a simple format that includes a large group component during which speakers with differing perspectives on a given issue share their varying viewpoints, sparking discussion and offering participants a common, shared experience. This is followed by a facilitated small group segment during which groups of 6-8 people actively engage in dialogue on the topic, each individual paraphrasing the person who spoke prior, before offering their own perspectives. During this small group segment, there is an opportunity to ask genuine questions of one another.
What do you mean by dialogue? Isn’t this the same as debate?
Actually, dialogue is quite different from a debate. Debate is about proving the other side wrong and assuming there is only one answer, all the while searching for flaws and weaknesses in the others’ positions. Dialogue is based on the assumption that many people have pieces of the answer and is collaborative rather than combative. It searches for strengths and value in others’ positions. (See “The Dialogue Decalogue” by Leonard Swidler.)
What is a “facilitated” small group?
Each group will have a trained facilitator lead the process in the small group. Usually, the group meets for 70 minutes immediately after the speakers have finished. During that time the facilitator will lead the group through 3 phases, once an informal introduction is done. The phases allow each person in the group an opportunity to share their feelings about the topic, to ask genuine questions of one another, and offer a closing response to a question about the process. If you choose, you do not have to participate during the group but obviously, the dialogue is enhanced by diverse views that are shared. The facilitation is done in order to ensure a pressure-free, respectful place for people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives to listen, learn and dialogue with one another.
I’ve heard that you have to paraphrase the person who spoke before you in a small group if you want to give your opinion, is that true?
Yes, but that does not mean repeating everything the person said. We ask that you capture 2 or 3 of the main points that the person made before you share your views on the topic. This is done to aid the listening process so that we are really hearing what the other person has to say. The facilitator can help if it is needed so it should not be a sticking point for anyone.
How much experience does IJPC have with the Day of Dialogue program?
We have been offering Days of Dialogue since February 2006 and have refined the process throughout this time based on our experiences and feedback from participants and co-sponsors. Each Day of Dialogue could look a little different based on the topic or preferences of our co-sponsors. However, the basic structure does not deviate from our commitment of providing an experience of learning about how to listen to others’ whose opinions differ on significant social issues. We wish to promote civil discourse, to stimulate critical thinking, and to provide an environment where true learning can occur.