March 2017: The Power of Dialogue

In this Issue

Opening Remarks

With this edition of Transforming Challenges, we are making some changes to our format to better serve our various kinds of clients.  Senior Consultant Maureen Gallagher focuses on our faith-based clients with her article on the Power of Dialogue.  And Senior Consultant Tom Reid offers 5 Keys to Enhancing Relationships for our small-business and nonprofit clients.

At The Reid Group, we have a passion for helping leaders and organizations transform their challenges into opportunities to create a better world. One of the ways we do that is through this e-letter, Transforming Challenges. Is there someone you know who could benefit from receiving it? Forward this edition to them and encourage them to subscribe for themselves. They’ll thank you—and so do we!

The Reid Group News

  • Tom Reid and John Reid facilitated training sessions in the Diocese of Trenton for the implementation phase of the planning process Faith in Our Future.  Four training sessions were held the first week in March in the four counties of the diocese.
  • Maureen Gallagher and John Reid have been hired by the U. S. Federation of Sisters of St. Joseph to facilitate four regional meetings regarding the recent organizational audit and the proposed mission, values and vision statements for the 50-year-old Federation.

So as you look at your individual or organizational future, what are your challenges? Could you benefit from skilled support? Give us a call at 206-432-3565 or send us an e-mail to start transforming those challenges into opportunities.

For our faith-based clients

The Power of Dialogue
Maureen Gallagher, Senior Consultant

Dialogue and discussion are often used interchangeably even though they are very different concepts and lead to different results.  Dialogue helps us to learn, to share meaning and integrate various ways of thinking.  Discussion is useful, if we are trying to sell an idea or reach consensus on an issue or decide top priorities.  There is a place in our lives for both of these skills.  This article will focus on dialogue, which has the power to transform us personally and to energize communities.

What is dialogue?
Dialogue is both a skill and an empowering tool that unleashes significant meaning and engages and supports people as they connect with each other for many purposes.  Dialogue creates trust and brings about new understandings.  Dialogue increases our capacity to explore new arenas and to “wonder out loud” in a safe environment.  Successful dialogue incorporates five operational principles:

  • letting go of preconceived notions or judgments
  • listening with the heart and the mind: focusing on meaning, feelings as well as thoughts; truly “standing in the shoes” of the other person; doing your best to understand where the other is coming from
  • using “I” messages”: “I feel sad when…” “I feel confused as I’m hearing conflicting thoughts…” “I am worried because…”
  • recognizing assumptions—those things that often form the lens through which we perceive things to be true or false, right or wrong—and be willing to let go of some that no longer serve us well or do not reflect reality
  • being curious—“I wonder if..” or I imagine that…”or “What would happen if…”—as a way to open the doors to new ideas; being curious also enables various perspectives to be integrated into a new way of thinking or acting

When is dialogue used?
Dialogue is the art of thinking together, so it is the preferred process when two people or a group are seeking new understandings, are sharing learnings related to an upcoming decision or going through any transformative process. For faith-based communities dialogue can easily be rooted in spirituality, especially ways of looking at a situation through the lens of the Paschal Mystery.

Congregations of Religious
For instance, if a congregation of religious men or women is concerned about the future of their sponsored ministries they may use the process of dialogue to come to come to decisions.  The process may begin with dialogue about the grace, blessings and challenges the sponsored ministry has been to the community.

Sharing about the sense of loss and pain associated with the possibility of transferring sponsorship need to be integrated into the dialogues, giving special attention to deep listening related to feelings of “letting go” and suffering that will occur, if sponsorship is transferred.  This dialogue process cannot be rushed.  Dealing with loss is not something that will only happen once; different aspects will need to be integrated throughout the planning/decision-making dialogic process. The dialogue process opens the doors for the Spirit “to create something new” through those engaged in the process.

Communal dialogue can focus on “seeing with new eyes” or imagining the reality from different perspectives.  Maybe the Sisters will see in transferring sponsorship that they are sowing new seeds for the future that will be powerful examples of their “living charism,” or they will see their sponsorship solution as a model for collaboration which is needed in today’s world.

Parish Pastoral Council
Dialogue—the art of thinking together—can also be a transformative process for a group like a pastor and parish pastoral council who are dealing with diminishing members, empty buildings and a church that is in need of expensive repairs.  While these issues can be dealt with through many discussions, employing the dialogue process can unleash new opportunities for the Spirit to promote the deepening of community relationships that build trust and help the pastor and council to see things in new ways.  Dialogue does not take away the pain or the loss, but it does help people to see many options and choose among them. If the dialogue principles are truly embedded in the process, a greater sense of bonding, of community will unfold as well among the councilors and with the pastor.

Dialogue requires the ability not to be defensive, but to be ready to change when presented with new information or new perspectives.  It requires compassion, patience, a desire to “discover” something new or a new twist on an old perspective.  Dialogue helps to build community—not a community where “group think” is the norm, but rather a community where different perspectives are seen to contribute to the whole, a community where the focus is not on winners and losers but rather on shared meaning, wisdom, respect and a level of awareness that promotes acceptance and values diversity.  

The Reid Group webinar series

What comes to mind when you hear the words trauma, loss or grief?  How have you dealt with the unexpected difficult experiences of life?  What are some of the healthy practices that enable you to grow stronger through adversity and loss?

If these questions interest you, mark your calendar for The Reid Group Webinar on Grieving our Experiences of Trauma & Loss

  • Thursday, March 23, 2017
  • 5 pm ET / 4pm CT / 3 pm MT / 2pm PT
  • Host for the Call:  Tom Reid

In an engaging and reflective experience, webinar participants will have the opportunity to:

  • Name a trauma or loss that they have experienced or are currently wrestling with 
  • Experience support
  • Receive some helpful and practical content
  • Consider healthy practices to move with and through trauma, loss and grief in life-giving ways

 To register for this Webinar, simply click here.  Space is limited, so register today! 

For our small business and nonprofit clients

5 Keys to Energize Your Relationships
Tom Reid, Senior Consultant

Today, many people seem to be so busy, stressed or fending off overwhelm just trying to keep up  with their life that relationship interactions can be treated as an afterthought, rather than getting our full attention.

You can energize and re-connect with your relationships with practices in these five key areas:

Key #1:  Pay attention to your relationship with yourself
Pay attention to what’s going on with you—what are you thinking?  Feeling?  What is your mood?  What you worried about or happy about?  This kind of personal inventory helps you to articulate your priorities and attend to your needs.

When you aren’t tuned in to what’s going on with you, you and the ones around you pay the price.  I remember one weekend when I was working as a campus ministry director and my wife was getting her Ph.D.  The two kids were very young and I was trying to take care of them, do the household chores—laundry, shopping, cooking—and prepare for the regular Sunday evening liturgy.  I walked into that liturgy in a black mood.  The next day, when a colleague asked me how my weekend was, I just unloaded on the poor guy.  I was so focused on meeting everyone else’s needs that I neglected my own.   The consequences were not pretty.

Key #2:  Pay attention to your mental state
Do you primarily live in the past or the future?  Do you hold grudges and rehash negative experiences?  We all do at some time or another.  When our kids were little, my wife and I needed a sitter if we wanted to have “date night.”  But on one occasion when I asked a neighbor girl if she would babysit, she said no.  No reason or expression of regret.  Just “no.”  For days afterward, every time I passed her house I sent what we’ll just call “negative thoughts” her way.

So, we all have negative feelings at some time or another, but it’s key to have a strategy for dealing with them:

  • First, become aware of them.
  • After you have identified the negative thought, consciously set it aside. When you become aware of the thought, just say to yourself, “Next?”
  • Redirect the negative thought to something else. Take a breath and choose something positive to focus on.

Key #3:  Pay attention to your relationship with others
Focus on the way you communicate with others.  Are you direct with them (using “I” statements) or do you use indirect communication (“Some people think” or “Feelings could be hurt if”)?  Indirect methods of communication drain energy, while direct communication energizes.

Key #4:  Pay attention to the seasons of relationship
There are seasons in any relationship that are times of “greater” or “lesser:” greater or lesser growth, greater or lesser grief or loss.  Centering or grounding practices can help you more easily navigate these seasons:

  • Employ conscious breathing exercises
  • Keep a journal
  • Keep in touch with close friends
  • Engage with a support group

Key #5:  Create structures of support
Most of us are not going to fully energize our relationships on our own.  Spiritual directors, coaches, mentors, or support groups of various kinds—all of these offer a necessary support structure.  They will challenge and encourage you in the direction you have set and hold you accountable for the actions that will get you there.

These five keys aren’t a silver bullet for over-busy lives, but paying consistent attention to the practice of paying attention can help to ensure that your relationships don’t pay the price of the stressful and ever-changing times we live in.


The Art of Change: Faith, Vision and Prophetic Planning

Think about what your organization could do if the process of planning met the inevitability of change head-on—and it resulted in significant success.

bookcoverweb2Organizations large and small, religious and secular, for-profit and not-for-profit, successful and unsuccessful, go through change. John Reid and Maureen Gallagher of the Reid Group have been instrumental in helping many groups discover the power of Prophetic Planning. This book presents a complete overview with detailed information that any organization will find useful in understanding how to plan for change.

The Art of Change: Faith, Vision and Prophetic Planning, and its companion CD are now available from Liguori Publications as well as from

And that’s it for this month. Look for Transforming Challenges next month–and until then, have a good day and a great week.  Kathy Johnson, Editor, Transforming Challenges
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