On Dialogue

By David Bohm

This book is a fascinating look at how people can better communicate. Not a wishy-washy manifesto about empathy or listening or teamwork; no, it seems rather to be a lovely and thoughtful summation of Bohm’s thoughts on “dialogue” and how to conduct and use this idea of “dialogue” successfully. It combines essays by Bohm with material from seminars and small group meetings: ”a combination of extemporaneous presentation and intentional, considered essays.”

It’s “both a practical working manual…as well as a theoretical foundation…” I find it very interesting how Bohm takes a quite general term and builds from it a unique approach and process: “…a multi-faceted process, looking well beyond typical notions of conversational parlance and exchange. It is a process which explores an unusually wide range of human experience: our closely held values; the nature and intensity of emotions; the patterns of our thought processes; the function of memory; the import of inherited cultural myths; and the manner in which our neurophysiology structures moment-to-moment experience.”

I really like the idea of “dialogue” as Bohm conceives it, and in fact I researched the topic briefly in anticipation of discussing during an Idea Exchange. I have yet to present on it, and may hold off until I get the chance to read the book, but it’s definitely something I’d like to explore further.

One crazy thing I learned from a review: “The Dalai Lama refers to David Bohm as his guru.” Whoa! I didn’t know Bohm was so revered. He’s first and foremost a scientist, which makes the ambition of this book all the more impressive. He’s characterized by one reviewer as having an “intimate” approach and a unique style of writing — a remarkable empathy and sense of honesty or openness, as I read it.

“Dialogue” is also described as being about how thought “is generated and sustained at the collective level.” This is heady stuff! Mind-altering, in a literal sense, when put into practice. It contains lots of supremely fascinating discussion about how people can better work, think, act, and learn together; not only that, the process emphasizes learning to observe your thought process, so it seems like both an essential text and tool for collaboration, and quite useful for better understanding oneself.


Additional information:

  • ISBN: 978-0415336413
  • Publisher: Routledge

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