More Than Just Words: Communication vs. Dialogue
by Amy Etheridge

Mere communication - imparting ones thoughts or ideas - may deliver a message but the message may be met with resistance or ambivalence. When genuine dialogue - an exchange of thoughts or ideas - takes place, all parties are engaged.

This engagement fosters collaboration and innovation; honest assessment; and ultimately, agreement or settlement. And, even where there may be disagreement, it often fosters respect and admiration.

As a Nation we are facing conversational dead space about the economic decline. There is a lot of static and chatter, but where is the real dialogue? In times such as these, advancement offices and entire institutions as so focused on revenue that conversations practically cease and dialogue no longer takes place.

What was once worthy of dialogue becomes an e-mail, voice mail, or nothing at all. While these electronic vehicles are useful tools they can't replace present voice-to-voice or face-to-face dialogue.

In the spirit of Valentine's Day, give your staff the gift of dialogue. How much more job satisfaction and productivity would your staff experience if they knew:

  1. Definitively what you wanted from them and the department,
  2. That you value their efforts and their successes, and
  3. That their voice is being heard?

Whatever the economic situation in your advancement office, take this moment to strengthen the conversational skills of yourself and your staff. Keep the airways open for substantive dialogue. Let's revive front porch rocker (or bar stool, if you will) dialogue and rediscover dynamic conversations.

Get straight to the heart of the matter. Whether the dialogue takes place within your advancement office staff or board meetings, performance evaluations, goals and objective reviews, or strategy sessions. All would benefit from genuine dialogue and, in fact, help focus you and your staff as you pursue annual goals.

Need to get the dialogue started? Think about this question as considered in Jim Collins book, Good to Great*:

What is the brutal fact of your current reality?

With courage, openness and an honest desire to explore this question and the many solutions, genuine dialogue is a proven path to discovery and innovation.

*Collins, Jim, Good To Great: New York: Harper Collins Publishers, Inc., 2001; ISBN 0-06-662099-6

Amy Etheridge is president of Giving Leadership Opportunity (GLO), a professional resource for personal, customized nonprofit and business consulting services. GLO is committed to creating growth opportunities for organizations as they seek to achieve their missions and fulfill their community promise. Amy may be reached at or 919.521.5776.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]