Sustained Dialogue

What is Dialogue

“Dialogue is a process of genuine interaction through which human beings listen to each other deeply enough to be changed by what they learn. Each makes a serious effort to take other’s concerns into their own picture, even when disagreement persists. No participant gives up their identity, but each recognizes enough of the other’s valid human claims so that they will act differently toward the other.”

Dr. Harold Saunders, Founder of SDI

What is Sustained Dialogue

Sustained Dialogue is a process that teaches participants how to transform conflictual relationships into collaborative relationships in order to confront difficult and polarizing issues. It focuses on listening attentively in order to understand, grow and use what is learned for changing the future. It equips participants to lead in adversarial situations and form strong relationships that influence decision-making and build peace within the community.

Sustained Dialogue differs from most other change processes in two ways. First, it focuses on relationships rather than issues. It conceptualizes relationships as comprised of five components of interaction/arena and through a dialogue process over a sustained period of time one can get into each arena and change it.

The five arenas of interaction are:

  • Identitydefined in human as well as in physical characteristics embodied in the life experience that brings each participant to the present moment;
  • Interestsboth material and psychological, that what people care about and that brings people into the same space and into a sense of their interdependence in achieving their goals;
  • Powerdefined as the capacity of citizens acting together to influence the course of events without great material resources and not only as control over superior resources and the actions of others;
  • Perceptions, misperceptions, and stereotypes about the others; and
  • Patterns of interaction among those involved.

Second, since relationships require a long time to change, it brings the same group of people together repeatedly over time and works through various stages of the process so that relationships evolve in a dialogue setting. To learn more visit:

Sustained Dialogue at Luther

Luther joined 43 other colleges when its application to the organization was accepted in 2017. SD became part of the First Year Student Orientation in August 2018. In November 2018, Student Senate used the model for its Project Z: Dialogue in Community workshop. During the fall semester 2019, SD will be used in the following ways:

  • First-year student orientation
  • Resident Assistants and Hall Directors workshop
  • First Year Paideia faculty orientation
  • Student leaders retreat