Alfred Hitchcock in dialogue with the MGM Lion

Alfred Hitchcock in dialogue with the MGM Lion

S+ Stimulant: Bohm Dialogue


David Bohm (1917 – 1992) was a pioneer in the fields of quantum mechanics and relativity, a colleague of Einstein, and one of the most significant theoretical physicists of the 20th century.  During the 1950s, however, he was suspended as a professor at Princeton University after refusing to answer questions from the House Un-American Activities Committee, and spent much of the rest of his life overseas.  His later work, perhaps as a result of these troubling experiences, focused on thought and consciousness, and he sought to break down the boundaries that allowed us to know ourselves and others.

One such method he developed is modernly referred to as the ‘Bohm Dialogue.’ This proposed communication system has four principles:

  1. The group agrees that no group-level decisions will be made in the conversation.
  2. Each individual agrees to suspend judgement in the conversation
  3. As these individuals “suspend judgement” they also simultaneously are as honest and transparent as possible.
  4. Individuals in the conversation try to build on other individuals’ ideas in the conversation.

As opposed to discussion or debate, which aim to reach a decision or accomplish a goal, a Bohm Dialogue is simply about exploring and learning in a free space.  In this effort to suspend our explicit and implicit judgments, Bohm hoped to free the mind to move in new, unexpected, collaborative ways based on listening to one another.  A dialogue would ideally mimic individual thought process in a group setting – the ideas of others can interact with each participant’s previously held ideas, eventually building upon these exchanges to create new, shared ideas among the participants.  The flowing back-and-forth creates collectively held perception, meaning, purpose, and value.

This non-judgmental, receptive form of interaction is used in a variety of settings where communication is vital, from family counseling to board rooms. In these times where it feels like the loudest and brashest voices win and folks are receding into their respective corners, an approach to communication and cooperation based on listening one another may be just what we need to embrace.




L.N. 2016

Published: November 24th, 2016

Previous in this series:

A case for second natures

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