The Motivations Behind Dialogue that Shapes Outcomes

Jul 10 , 2020
By Halima Abate (MD)

In the realm of public administration, it is the complex relationships within a society that magnify problems such as inefficiency and disparities between individuals and groups. Cultivating systematic approaches to fighting such limitations is beneficial, and one of these is effective dialogue, which opens the door to stimulative interactions in our effort to address problems.

Consistent dialogue among stakeholders inspires rational and desirable mutual understanding and relationships to confront shared public concerns and pave the way to a democratic decision-making processes.

Dialogue is a behavior of human interaction where exchanges of ideas or opinions transpire with an aim to reach an amicable agreement. By definition, this tool is indispensable to democratic processes where solutions are just as important to come from the bottom-up as they are from top-to-bottom. It is vital for successful relationship building and mutual understanding but much more crucial in the effort to question long-held assumptions and beliefs.

The exercise of dialogue transcends mere conversation making and serves as a conduit for social learning. But this requires authentic dialogue, which is a key normative component of public deliberation serving as a device to legitimate and construct the sense of the self and other, the community and logic. It is undeniable that compared with the attention given to the institutional side of authentic dialogue, less attention has been devoted to the human communicative behavior in terms of dialogue.

Hence, emphasising the emotional aspects of authentic dialogue will reveal how complex societal problems are confronted through emotional rather than logical means. Discussion on the basis of the understanding of human information processing motivation can lead to a better practice of deliberative democracy, which assures authentic dialogue galvanised by open-mindedness.

What needs to be highlighted here is the importance of criticism. What authentic dialogue requires is not merely being kind and open to opposing ideas but also being critical of what is being learned and discussed. It is also for reflection, shaping what would otherwise be an unmanageable plethora of subject matter, interpretation, inferences and behavioural shifts.

Contemplating the human communicative behavior of dialogue leads us to consider information processing motivations, which can be classified into epistemic, social and compassionate models.

The epistemic information processing motivation model is related to the collective decision-making process, which is crucial for generating legitimacy of the product. However, the degree of level of information processing may tilt to the preferences of the majority. It offers the path of least resistance by virtue of the likelihood that there would be few out there who can criticise the decision that is arrived at.

The social information motivation refers to the individual processes of outcomes either for the self, with the aim of advancing personal goals, or the social, to pursue group goals. The pro-self model could maintain distinct and sometimes even conflicting proclivities, whereas the pro-social attempts can deviate from the wants of the self and serves the public interest, which contributes and feeds back on collective decision-making.

The compassionate information motivation encompasses the willingness to respond empathically to situations as though the individuals were the affected party despite being safe from it.

The inter-connectedness among these three conceptual dimensions will be crucial to proving the insight into the type of leadership and management that is required to enhance the quality of public deliberation.

Political leaders should be cognisant of the human information motivation systems and how they work hand in hand with the values and communication systems within institution contexts. Notable is the importance of balancing these motivations with the problem at hand and the traditional decision-making process of communities.

Having a more nuanced understanding of the nature of deliberation allows us to more effectively leverage emotions and motivations to enable society to better understand one another in terms of their fundamental cultural values, differing ways of expressing themselves and interest.

PUBLISHED ON Jul 10,2020 [ VOL 21 , NO 1054]

Halima Abate (MD) is a public health professional with over a decade of experience. She can be reached at

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