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Lessons about Dialogue… from a Beer Commercial!


There’s a new ad from Heineken Beer that getting a lot of attention at the moment.

It’s well worth a look, especially because of the insights it suggests about how to engage in Dialogue with people we may not know or trust well.



The Insights

  • Get to know each other as people first.

It’s really hard to have a significant conversation with a stranger. So start by finding out what you have in common. Better yet, work on something together.

  • Find out what you have in common.

If you are in conflict with someone, it’s very likely you have something in common. Find out what this might be. It could be more personal – being parents, living in the same city – or it could be professional objectives – wanting to see improvements in a situation you both care about. So find these things, and build bridges to them.

  • Be intrigued to find out more about this person.

Don’t look just at the surface, but go further to discover more about the unique characteristics of your partner. And be willing to share more about yourself – your interests, life experiences.

  • Be willing to be uncomfortable. 

Really getting to know someone, especially if they have a different perspective or experience from you, is hard work. It can be challenging and uncomfortable. But if you turn away at this stage, you will never discover the gift this person might have shared with you.


We know that beer is not needed for every meeting and dialogue to be successful! But we do see the benefits of getting more comfortable with people as we work together, share meals together, enjoy refreshments (coffee and tea can work just as well as beer!).
When there’s hard work to be done – whether it involves forming partnerships and joint ventures, or overcoming conflict – we all benefit from being willing to see the people we are working with in new ways:

  • that we are all, as people, fundamentally interested in positive outcomes;
  • that we are often motivated by similar values and life experiences;
  • that we are all doing the best we know how.

We’ve worked with a number of clients where there were huge divides and conflicts between participants. We began meetings by inviting people to tell stories:

  •  What drew you into this work of educating children?
  •  What influenced you to devote your life to working in healthcare?

As people told their stories, we were amazed at how much of themselves they were willing to share with others. But we were not surprised when people on opposite sides of a conflict discovered that they shared similar values, similar life experiences, similar interests. Finding out these similarities led to an awareness that they had more in common than they had ever thought possible.

They now could build from this foundation of acknowledging their common humanity. They were in a better position to be curious, to inquire with questions, to seek to understand before making assumptions and judgements.


The Takeaway…

A willingness to meet each other as people is critical for successful Dialogue, for building strong foundations for collaboration tough, wicked problems. And it’s essential to be able to stay with the challenging task of working with others to craft something new and worthwhile.

Contact us to learn more about how we can help you design and run meetings in which people connect to have impact.

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