Image of an ear listening to a sound

Dialogue Walk

Creativity & Inner Work


This activity is for two people to engage in a generative listening exercise. A Dialogue Walk can be a part of a larger program, where participants are instructed to plan and do a Dialogue Walk based on a theme from the program. Or a person can plan and do a Dialogue Walk as part of individual work or growth.

“Listening is probably the most underrated leadership capacity today, but listening is really at the source of all great leadership. When we see leadership failures, and today we see many opportunities to see that, very often at the source of these failures is a lack of listening. A lack of connecting to what is really going on in reality right now.”

— Otto Scharmer, Theory U

The purpose of a dialogue walk is to engage in deep dialogue, that means authentic listening and sharing. A dialogue walk is, from a process and method perspective, pretty straight forward. It’s two individuals taking the time for a walk where they commit to the intention to share and listen deeply for a longer-than-usual amount of time. 

The suggested process below is specifically targeted to the challenges of Gender Equality, however a dialogue walk can focus on any theme. 

Time: 30 minutes (7 – 12 minutes of each person talking uninterrupted)


  1. Listening 1: Downloading (from habits)
    • This first level of listening is characterized by listening from your habits, from what you already know. So basically you “download” your assumptions into the present situation, hence you also listen to what you already know. The result of this kind of listening is that you reconfirm your existing opinions and judgements. 

  2. Listening 2: Factual (from outside)
      • When listening from level two we are starting to open our mind. That is, we start to pay attention to what is different from how we thought it is. We start to pay attention and collect disconfirming data. 

  3. Listening 3: Empathetic (from within)
      • Empathic listening is where we start to see the world through another person’s eyes. It is only from this level of listening where our center of attention starts to move “outside of us”.

  4. Listening 4: Generative (from source)
        • This fourth level of listening is something you don’t usually find in theories and practices of listening. The key difference here is that there is something happening with the center of attention. It is no longer  located in one specific person, rather the center, or source, from where the listening happens has no specific perspective anymore. It is somewhat “between” people. 
        • It is in these moments when something really new can happen, as we let go of our own sense of Self and together engage in a conversation where we let come what we don’t yet know. 
        • Here we open our will to be changed by the conversation. We are really starting to see reality with fresh eyes. In generative listening we connect to an emerging future possibility.

  5. Think of a situation, person or happening that you feel would benefit from a space of sharing and listening authentically that, in whatever way feels relevant to you, had to do with Gender Equality. It might have been something that made you feel insecure, uncomfortable or in other ways inadequate.

  6. Define a Question that you would like to genuinely explore with the respective person. Take some time to go through that situation again with a perspective that is slightly stepped back and observant, this will help you to formulate a question that will also feel open enough for the other party (to not already now have a question that puts the other person in a defensive attitude). Depending on what the situation was about, this may take a some effort from your side – stick to it as you will have the chance to share your frustrations later on. Some aspects you can take into consideration when thinking about a question:
    • Open question: Is the question really open or does it already have implicit assumptions in it? Will it invite the other party to become curious?
    • Genuine interest: Are you genuinely interested in the other parties point of view? This process is not a debate of right or wrong, it’s an exercise in relating to each other, hence it requires your genuine interest. What aspects of the other person’s experience make you curious?

  7. Invite for a dialogue walk and explain the purpose and principles. This can happen through whatever means feel adequate to you (email, phone-call, SMS). Our invitation is for you to see if you can choose to communicate in a way that feels a little bit more out-of-your-comfort-zone than usual. This is about taking responsibility to create the atmosphere you want.
    • Genuine invitation: People are more sensitive than we think and can be suspicious about other people’s intentions. Be proactive about this by being genuine in your invitation. Genuine doesn’t necessarily mean soft; genuine means you communicate in coherence with your feelings, thoughts and intentions.

  8. Create the atmosphere you would like to be in. For instance you may want to think about where and when to meet. And if you want to, where you could have a (re)generative conversation after the walk. Also you may want to think about how to frame again the conversation and be clear about your intention of sharing authentically and listening with an open heart.

  9. Enjoy!
    • Repeat the question you are wanting to explore. Mention again the purpose of listening and sharing for uninterrupted 7-12min each person. Set a timer and enjoy listening and being listened to!

Either agree on the spot to follow up on your conversation within one or two weeks. Alternatively, you can first let it sink in and reach out for a follow-up later on. The follow-up can be anything simply from a thank you to an ongoing conversation and exploration where both support the other’s learning journey in this complex world to become the people we know in our hearts that we can be.