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The Magic of Dialogue

Dialogue–a carefully structured communications technique that is generally employed to promote mutual understanding between bona fide as well as potential adversaries–has been responsible for such seminal events as ending the cold war and initiating (albeit briefly) a Middle East peace accord. But business, says well-known social scientist and public-opinion specialist Daniel Yankelovich in this classic 1999 book, also can utilize the process to develop “webs of relationships” that encourage the acceptance and increase the adoption of any company’s plans and visions.

The Magic of Dialogue outlines 15 specific strategies (such as “Focus on common interests, not divisive ones” and “Use specific cases to raise general issues”) that can be successfully applied in situations ranging from routine meetings and casual encounters to corporate retreats and union negotiations. While admitting it “is not a panacea for all the problems that ail us,” Yankelovich incorporates real-life examples and suggestions to support his contention that “when dialogue is done skillfully, the results can be extraordinary.”

Yankelovich is the co-founder of Public Agenda, an organization which helps policy makers better understand the public’s point of view on major policy issues while helping citizens better understand critical policy issues so they can make their own more informed and thoughtful decisions. Public Agenda’s conversation process and materials present issues in a nonpartisan and stimulating way.

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