Being Dialogical & Avoiding MasterTalk

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Being Dialogical & Avoiding MasterTalk

© Al Turtle 2007 
(Click here for an Audio File of a seminar on this topic.)


I think that Being Dialogical is the inverse of Being Emotionally Symbiotic.   All this work began for me back in the 1994 when Harville Hendrix posited that Emotional Symbiosis was the root cause of the Power Struggle of couples.  He called it the "disease of the disease."  To this day, I am grateful for that thought, and have come to treasure it. 

To go one step further, I have come to believe that being Dialogical is the core under the solution to power struggles – all of them.  I believe that when you see a country, corporation, group or couple that is struggling with power, you can safely predict that they are using an Emotionally Symbiotic orientation.  Also, I think you can predict that they will begin to resolve their struggles as they begin to shift to a reliable Dialogical orientation.   I think our job as couples’ therapists is to help two people shift into durable dialogue.  I think our job as friends is to help our friends into durable dialogue with us.

Review: Emotional Symbiosis has Three Traits  (Probably at its simplest, it is “fear of differences”.)

  1. The belief that there is a RIGHT way of seeing, describing, understanding, and valuing everything – i.e. What-Is-Going-On.
  2. The limited capacity to be aware that others are different, or to respect, appreciate, or comprehend their subjectivity.  The tendency to be uncomfortably startled at the appearance of disagreement.
  3. A tendency to denigrate, derogate, put down, distance, shame, punish, argue with, etc. another person when they, by word or act, show disagreement with your way of seeing What-is-going-on. 

The Three Traits of Being Dialogical  

(Probably at its simplest, it is “delight in sharing differences”.)

  1. A comfortable belief that there is no right way of seeing things.  "All people make sense all the time," in their view.   "All people disagree all the time at some level of detail.  You can either share this or keep it secret."  "You can either be Right or in Relationship. Take your pick."
  2. The capacity to be delighted when people display they are different.  Talking and listening with each other until a disagreement appears, and then talking and listening more actively, carefully, and with more pleasure.  "Eager, durable curiosity about differences."
  3. The reliable tendency to admire, respect, encourage, and protect people when they share their differences. 

Role of MasterTalk

MasterTalk seems to me to be a cue to the probable presence of Emotional Symbiosis.  And it seems almost objective.  It seems to be based on a sentence structure (at least in English), often using the verb “to be,” and implies that a single point of view is “correct” and “right.”  I have found that MasterTalk is extremely easy to notice – even measure.

I have found that if you are trying to remain dialogical, the awareness and handling of the MasterTalk is more critical than the subject being talked about, and is even more critical than politeness.  If we keep an ear out for MasterTalk and remove it, we can easily resist the tendency to Emotional Symbiosis and durably stay in a Dialogical space.

Decision Making

In an Emotionally Symbiotic orientation, the first step is always to contest among people until one person gains ascendancy and others lose position. The top person then makes the decisions: good, bad or indifferent. The losers are quiet, submit, and go-along. The winner’s point of view survives as the "right" one. The focus is on "the truth."  This orientation is based upon "disconnect." In a Dialogical orientation, the focus is on “how the group will proceed from this point of time.”  It is assumed that people disagree both before and will continue to disagree after the decision about how to proceed is made. Focus on a Win-Win solution. I win AND you win. Each person senses that they got the best they could given the needs of the group and other people within it. “This is the best I can achieve for myself in this community, and best you can achieve.”  Dialogical orientation is rooted in Empathic connection.

My full article on this topic


Being Dialogical & Avoiding MasterTalk — 2 Comments

  1. Al,
    I had pointed some people to your essay on why you preferred Obama last night and someone commented about how they had never heard of Dialogical and MasterTalk so I pointed him here. I also commented how I make a conscious effort to avoid MasterTalk these days (well, truth to tell, its more and more unconscious as time goes on) . I commented how when I post on message boards I do my best to almost always comment in a dialogical manner. This morning, someone responded and I thought some people here might get some value out of this response. Certainly I found it validating. Here was the comment:
    “Thank you very much for this post. It really resonated when you described the way of speaking that you are doing, it really gives room to others and I have noticed what a relief I feel when I read your posts as you express yourself that way. It feels really expansive to me , like there is room for real sharing and not dogma. I found the Al Turtle site when you mentioned it the other day and it has been tremendous for learning new ways. Your input has been so valuable to me! Thank you so much for your help these last few days. ”
    I've thanked you many times in the past for this site Al and all the value I've received from it, especially as I practice the suggestions here, and I'm going to thank you again now.

  2. I really like this description of a 'win-win' situation. It seems that many times people get hung up on having their side win. The bit I like is:
    'Each person senses that they got the best they could given the needs of the group and other people within it. “This is the best I can achieve for myself in this community, and best you can achieve.” '
    It seems like your major idea is that people are not 'supposed' to agree. This seems at variance with what most people hope will happen in a relationship. However, I think the fact is that most couples do not agree on many things. So, perhaps this is the reality. It's not the rose-tinted glasses that people might like, but it can make it possible to live together peaceably.

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