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A dialogue is a conversation or, in a broader sense, a written speech and counter-speech between two or more people.

Word origin

The term dialogue comes from the ancient Greek noun διάλογος diálogos , conversation ',' conversation 'or the ancient Greek Deponentium (verb) διαλέγεσθαι dialégesthai , under talk', 'talk'. This, in turn, can be traced back to the Greek roots διά diá '[through] through' and λόγος lógos 'word', 'speech'; also διάλογος diá-logos , d. H. 'Flow of Words'.

Originally, the term was not specified in terms of the number of speakers. However, the term was used synonymously for dialogue early on , which led to derived terms such as monologue , trialogue and polylogue for one, three and more speakers. A monologue in the true sense of the word is a conversation with yourself or a speech to an intended counterpart, e.g. B. as a stylistic device in drama .


Dialogue was initially used by the sophists as a design tool that was deliberately used to convey knowledge or to discuss problems in the sense of classical dialectics with theses and antitheses . In literary terms he finds his first climax in the Platonic dialogues . In humanism , the dialogue then flourished again with Erasmus von Rotterdam and Ulrich von Hutten .


The Socratic dialogues were conveyed by Plato . Socrates was concerned with the direct conversation, in which the knowledge of the interlocutor is to be brought to the surface ( Maeutics ). His approach sees dialogue in small and very small groups as the source of encouraging the individual to promote independent, self-determined thinking.

If one understands the dialogue from Socrates' point of view as a spatially and temporally protected space ( container? ) For tracking down one's own inner attitude to the things of (professional) everyday life, then everyone involved is seen as equally responsible for a common reality that is shaping now and here becomes. Often the alternation between convergent and divergent questions is a significant engine of such a dialogue, the purpose of which is to explore one's own and other people's habits, assumptions, values, ways of thinking and behaving in direct encounter ( transformation? ).

The basic question is: "What are you doing there, and how do you come to understand ... the way you do it?" This question should not lead to a cause research, evaluation or judgment, rather this question gives space and time for acceptance of what is really meaningful now. The skills to help shape a Socratic dialogue promote the making of binding agreements and decisions with a high level of acceptance. The dialogue is therefore the main link between common (social) goals, concrete (decision-making) behavior and a lived society.

David Bohm

As a physicist, David Bohm made a number of significant contributions to physics. In the last phase of his life he increasingly turned to questions about human awareness and the nature of interpersonal communication. This gave rise to the so-called Bohmian dialogue .

Bohm developed his approach to dialogue in an intensive exchange with Jiddu Krishnamurti . Krishnamurti assumed complete "spiritual" freedom . Through attentive observation of one's own mind and its reactions at the moment of transformation, man can get to his inner being and end his conditioning through traditions and prejudices.

According to Bohm, the dialogue is characterized by an intensification of the discussions. Through this deepening, the feelings, evaluations and assumptions that guide the thinking and acting of the individual participant can come into consciousness. Thus the experience and life stories of the participants can be explored through the dialogue. This also results in a deeper understanding of the dialogue partners among themselves, of the factual context discussed and their own internal processes. This opens up the possibility of changing points of view and attitudes.

For Bohm, dialogue is not just a form of communication, but also a path to a fundamental transformation of individuals and groups.

The St. Arbogast Educational Center in Vorarlberg set itself the task of promoting, disseminating and explaining Bohm's dialogue in detail.

William Isaacs

At the American MIT ( Massachusetts Institute of Technology ) in 1992-1994 in the Dialogue Project under William Isaacs the dialog in groups according to Bohm et al. a. Developed further by Peter Senge , Freeman Dhority and Peter Garrett, successfully tested in several practical fields in order to create a "learning organization" and to apply dialogue as a method in companies and organizations. The strong emphasis on the methodical approach does not, however, fit easily with the basic views of Bohm and his roots in Jiddu Krishnamurti.

Isaacs sees the following dialogue skills as essential:

  • Listening as letting what you hear have an effect on you out of an inner silence.
  • Respect as renouncing any form of defense, blame, devaluation or criticism of the dialogue partners.
  • Suspending as recognizing and observing one's own thoughts, emotions and opinions without falling into a fixation.
  • Articulating as finding one's own authentic language and speaking one's own truth.

In addition to these elementary skills, the concept of the "container" is essential for a dialogue. Such a container is to be understood as a space or vessel or setting in which the intensity of direct, trusting, interpersonal conversation can be safely practiced and carried out. In this respect, the German translation of the room of trust or trust room is applicable. According to Isaacs, without such a container there is no dialogue. With Isaacs, the facilitator also plays a key role, which Bohm does not have at all.

Carl Rogers (Encounter Movements)

From modern forms of therapy by Viktor Frankl and Carl Rogers , some encounter movements have emerged that have developed dialogue into a form of deeper encounter in a partnership - especially marriage - and in a committed community . As a form of communication in the culture of active listening , this form of dialogue is spread and cultivated by marriage counselors , family chaplains and Christian renewal movements.

Sun understands Marriage Encounter (ME), one of the Jesuit Gabriel Calvo (Spain) and Chuck Gallagher founded (USA) and now used worldwide Encounter Movement, under "Dialog" a combined written-oral form of interpersonal exchange in which the groove the couple relationship takes place by looking at one's own emotions and those of the partner. First of all, each person locates their own feelings in connection with a current issue of the couple (or in communities where they live together) and communicates them (in writing or orally) to the partner. It is important for them to initially only listen (see also listening group ).

Only in a second step should thoughts or questions be expressed, paying special attention to mutual trust . In the case of unpleasant feelings, you can look for the unfulfilled basic needs or consider further steps for a deeper coexistence. In a similar way, forms of communication and rules of dispute can also be developed in the event of conflicts , which avoid mutual harm and lead to solutions more quickly.

A first introduction to this in- depth dialogue is given at the ME weekends , which are given several times a year in several hundred educational institutions in Europe, America and Asia. A few weeks later, the participants can attend in-depth group evenings or take part in small groups for a limited period. Many states also offer special theme weekends or vacation weeks with relationship issues.


The MIT approach (see above ) came through Freeman Dhority to the married couple Martina and Johannes Hartkemeyer, who continue to spread this basic concept with their dialogue project in German-speaking countries to this day. At first they saw dialogue as a teachable and learnable method of communication in groups that enables a common understanding. Hartkemeyer & Hartkemeyer later propagated dialogue as a method to clarify thinking about "reality" and learning together. The strong emphasis on learning together instead of becoming aware of one's own thoughts and the accompanying emotions does not simply fit in with the basic views of Bohm and his roots in Judda Nariahna, known as Jiddu Krishnamurti.

The training to be a dialogue facilitator and the core skills they propagate for conducting a dialogue (learning attitude, radical respect, openness, generative listening, observing observers, suspending assumptions / evaluations, slowing down, speaking from the heart, productive pleading and exploratory attitude) will play an important role attributed. Following on from this, Hartkemeyer & Hartkemeyer then consequently developed relevant training paths that they still offer on the market today. This excessive emphasis on the methodical approach is also not readily compatible with the basic views of Bohm and his roots in Judda Nariahna, known as Jiddu Krishnamurt.

Martin Buber

The philosopher of religion Martin Buber is often quoted by Hartkemeyer & Hartkemeyer, but never considered in the appropriate context.

Bohm, Isaacs and Hartkemeyer & Hartkemeyer are about thinking together in groups with a view to common learning paths towards the learning organization. In contrast to this, Buber focuses on human encounters with a conversation partner and ultimately with the Mosaic God. In Buber's thinking, what is effective between people is assigned a central existence and meaning. For Buber's thinking, the direct relationship to the direct conversation partner is decisive for the quality of his dialogue, which in Buber's case ultimately also determines the relationship to the (Mosaic) God. In this way, Buber assigns the relationship between the participants in the conversation (the in- between ) a separate entity that touches and connects those directly involved. Every interlocutor who treats an interlocutor as an object eliminates the mystery of this between people , which in the end comes pretty close to Buber's concept of God.

Buber's writings on the principle of dialog contain a figure whom he calls The Real Conversation . Requirements for this are:

  • the essential turning to the other as "personal existence",
  • contribute yourself,
  • overcome appearances and strive for authentic being,
  • no ready-made speeches.

Karl-Martin Dietz

At Karl-Martin Dietz , “dialogue” is not only based on forms of conversation , but rather characterizes a process through which the logo passes. He traces the term Logos back to Heraclitus of Ephesus and, like him, understands it to be an immortal power that controls the things of the world and lives in the human soul. A collaboration is then "dialogue" when Dietz of I to I, while the reality is, said I, of course, is part of the reality. He also sees the “Socratic dialogue” in this context, because it is “characterized by the responsibility of the interlocutors for what they think, by the ability to distance themselves (irony) and by the effort to form a concept that is committed to reality . ”Against this background, Dietz and Thomas Kracht developed the so-called dialogical leadership / dialogical culture , which is essentially based on the four dialogical processes of“ individual encounter ”,“ transparency ”,“ advice ”and“ decision ”.

Literary studies

As a literary genre , dialogue is a text assigned to several speakers with distributed roles . Dialogue is used by Plato as a form of philosophical discussion that demonstrates how to go beyond mere opinion to come to knowledge . Different views meet in dialogue . Participants try to share their views with others in order to gain insights that were not available to any individual.

As a literary means of characterizing the characters and developing action, dialogue determines the drama or ballad-like narratives. A special form of epic is the dialogue roman , which consists almost exclusively of conversations - as in Diderot , Rousseau , Wieland , Wezel , the Marquis de Sade or the late Fontane .

As a text form, the dialogue serves a particularly lively presentation, can illuminate a topic better than a uniform text from different sides and convey several different positions with one another or play them off against one another. This representation can optionally also be used to hide the personal opinion of the author, such as personal protection and to avoid censorship (as in David Hume in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion ), or it may a basic distrust of the single form of written texts arise (so, according to some interpreters, with Plato or also with Diderot).

Dialogue in Christianity

An introductory catechism sets out the Christian faith in the form of a question and answer: the student should be able to learn and reproduce the answers as the teacher asks the various questions. The form of dialogue chosen for didactic reasons does not contain any freedom, but aims to be memorized . The exposition of faith to skeptics and dissenters in the context of apologetics often takes the form of answering objections. In his large sum of theology , Thomas Aquinas begins each article with an objection, which he then answers.

Differences of opinion between denominations were resolved through religious discussions , for example between Luther and Zwingli about the understanding of the Lord's Supper. There are also different understandings of faith within denominations, for example between the so-called historical-critical current and the conservative current, between which there are major differences in the assessment of the historicity of biblical texts.

In the 20th century, denominations tried to approach each other and to discover in ecumenical conversations to what extent there are also essential similarities in the area of ​​controversial issues.

Dialogue of Religions

The purpose of the religious dialogue is a. getting to know, confronting and meeting different belief systems with the aim of eliminating prejudices , establishing relationships and talking about assumed or actual differences.

In the late 20th century there was an intensive Judeo-Christian dialogue . In addition, the interreligious dialogue was strongly promoted overall, for example between Christians and Muslims , partly with the inclusion of Jews as " Abrahamic Dialogue ", and between Christians and Buddhists . The interreligious learning organized in schools and universities emphasizes learning through direct personal encounters.


  • David Bohm: The dialogue. Stuttgart 1998.
  • Martin Buber: The dialogical principle: I and you. Dialogue. The question for the individual. Elements of interpersonal. On the history of the dialogic principle. 10th edition. Gütersloh 2006.
  • Martin Buber: Me and you. Ditzingen 1995.
  • Karl-Martin Dietz : Dialogue. The art of collaboration . 4th edition. Heidelberg 2014.
  • Karl-Martin Dietz, Thomas Kracht: Dialogical leadership . Basics - Practice. Case study: dm-drogerie markt. 4th updated edition. Frankfurt am Main 2016.
  • Michael Eskin: Ethics and dialogue: in the works of Levinas, Bakhtin, Mandelshtam, and Celan. Oxford University Press, 2000.
  • Michael Holquist: Dialogism. Bakhtin and His World. 2nd Edition. Routledge, 2002.
  • Martina Hartkemeyer, Johannes Hartkemeyer, Freeman Dhority: Thinking together - the secret of dialogue. Stuttgart 2002.
  • Matthias Hausmann, Marita Liebermann (eds.): Staged conversations: on dialogue as a genre and mode of argument in Romania from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment. Berlin 2014.
  • Susanne Ehmer: Dialogue in Organizations. Practice and benefits in organizational development.
  • Freeman L. Dhority, Martina Hartkemeyer, Johannes F. Hartkemeyer: Thinking together. The secret of the dialogue. 5th edition. Stuttgart 2010.
  • Martina Hartkemeyer, Johannes Hartkemeyer: The Art of Dialogue - Discovering Creative Communication. Experiences - suggestions - exercises. Stuttgart 2005.
  • William Isaacs: Dialogue as the Art of Thinking Together. Cologne 2002.
  • Peter M. Jancsary, Falko EP Wilms : About the Dialogic. Berlin 2008.
  • Peter M. Jancsary, Falko EP Wilms: What dialogue can be. In: Trainer contact letter. 01/08, p. 24.
  • Vittorio Hösle : The philosophical dialogue. Munich 2006.
  • Michael Lukas Moeller : The truth begins with two people. The couple in conversation. Rowohlt Taschenbuch, Reinbek.
  • Christoph Mandl, Markus Hauser, Hanna Mandl: The creative discussion. Art and Practice of Dialogue in Organizations. Edition Humanistic Psychology - Ehp, Cologne 2008.
  • Thomas Mikhail (Ed.): Me and you. The forgotten dialogue. Frankfurt am Main 2008.

Web links

Wiktionary: Dialogue  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. See Duden online , dtv Lexikon
  2. ^ Wilhelm Gemoll: Greek-German school and hand dictionary. Munich / Vienna 1965.
  3. Helmut Glück (Ed.): Metzler Lexikon Sprach. 4th edition. Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2010: Dialog.
  4. Integral Cooperation, page 10, accessed on September 21, 2015.
  5. dialogprojekt.de
  6. ^ Karl-Martin Dietz: Dialogue. The art of collaboration. 3rd, expanded edition. MENON, Heidelberg 2010, p. 7.
  7. ^ Karl-Martin Dietz: Dialogue. The art of collaboration. 3rd, expanded edition. MENON, Heidelberg 2010, p. 8.
  8. ^ Karl-Martin Dietz, Thomas Kracht: Dialogic leadership . Basics - practice, case study dm-drogerie markt. 3. Edition. Campus, Frankfurt am Main 2011, ISBN 978-3-593-37170-2 , p. 96ff.
  9. Gabriele Kalmbach: The dialogue in the field of tension between written and oral. Niemeyer, Tübingen 1996, ISBN 3-484-63011-6 .
  10. One of the results of Roland Galle: Diderot - or the dialogue of the Enlightenment. In: New Handbook of Literary Studies. Volume 13: European Enlightenment III. Edited by Jürgen von Stackelberg. Athenaion, Wiesbaden 1980, ISBN 3-7997-0726-3 , pp. 209-247.
  11. Thomas Mayer, Karl-Heinz Vanheiden (ed.): Jesus, the Gospels and the Christian faith. A debate triggered by a SPIEGEL conversation. Gefell, Nuremberg 2008.
  12. Maximilian Gröne: Dialogue as a literary strategy: to the anthology 'Staged Conversations'. In: Romance Studies. June 26, 2016, pp. 535-538 , accessed June 26, 2016 .