Respectful dialogue

31 Mar 2017

Earlier this week I caught up with my friend John Sturrock. For those of you who don't know John, he is the Chief Executive of, and a senior mediator with, Core Mediation. John and his colleague Charlie Woods ran a role play mediation with ten different teams representing different governments and interest groups attempting to negotiate the UK's leaving of the EU. Although it was only a role play – the players entered into the spirit of the evening which was designed to let us see the role mediation can play bringing apparently diametrically opposing views to the point of agreement. The evening was observed by a number of academics in the field, some from Edinburgh University, who commented from time to time on what they were seeing. The power plays and strategic alliances between some of the teams were both interesting and entertaining.  


At the start of the event John reminded us of the 8 points of the Code for Respectful Dialogue created by Collaborative Scotland in 2014. Under John's leadership, a number of us worked on producing guidelines for respectful dialogue in the run up to the 2014 Independence Referendum. We were conscious that the eyes of the world were on us but were concerned that with the emotion that was about at the time, we might not behave respectfully in full view of the world. We knew whatever the outcome, there would be happy and disappointed people who would need to work together. 


Given where we are now with constitutional matters I believe the need for respectful dialogue is as relevant now as it was back in 2014. With John's permission, I reproduce the guidelines as follows : 


  • Look for common ground and shared interests at all times 

  • Show respect and courtesy towards all those who are engaged in discussions, whatever views they have 

  • Acknowledge that there are many differing, deeply held and valid points of view 

  • Listen carefully to all points of view and seek to understand what concerns and motivates those with differing views from your own 

  • Use language carefully and seek to avoid personal or other remarks which might cause offence 

  • Ask questions if you don't understand what others are saying or proposing 

  • Express your own views clearly and honestly and with transparency about motives and interests 

  • Respond to questions asked with openness, and whenever you can with credible


So is that too much to ask? Sometimes when I watch Prime Minister or First Minister Question time in the respective parliaments I do wonder what happened to civility. In an earlier blog I commented that in my HR career, more often than not, the disciplinary and grievance matters that I had to deal with were rooted in someone somewhere treating someone else with disrespect.  


So I hope you can sign up to the points above at a personal level. Let's face it we all could do with a little more dignity in our lives !       

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