When most of us enter into dialogue we do not really listen to what the other person is saying. We are always working on our side of the conversation. This requires us to focus on ourselves rather than on the person with whom we are speaking.

When we enter into conversation with our side already formulated we are not engaging in dialogue. We are following a script. True conversation requires a serious element of unknowing. We don't know what the other person is going to say. This not knowing makes us nervous. Indeed, waiting for someone to think things through before speaking can be awkward. But this does not mean it should not be done. Not knowing is essential to true dialogue. We have to leave ourselves open to what the other is saying, and in this there is no room for programmed responses.

The next time you are engaged in a serious conversation with someone, redirect your attention from what you want to say to what the other person is saying. Just listen. Focus on what is being said and how it is being said. Ask questions to clarify issues that are unclear. Gently probe the emotional state of the speaker; if you sense the speaker is upset or angry, ask her to verbalize this: "You're talking about this pretty calmly, but I get the feeling that you're really angry. Are you?" Collect as much relevant data from the speaker as you can, and then when it is your turn to speak — don't.

Take a moment to really ponder what you have already heard. Breathe from the belly and let the words sink in. Remind yourself that you are connected to this person and to all life; that what you say can have implications far beyond what you intend or can foresee. Allow yourself to connect to the other person on the level of Ayin, the interdependence of all things. Now look the other person in the eye and speak.

Rami Shapiro in Minyan