Revisiting the Characteristics of the Dialogue By Pope Paul VI
This type of relationship indicates proposal of courteous esteem, of understanding and of goodness on the part of the one who inaugurates the dialogue. It excludes the a priori condemnation, of the offensive and time-worn polemic, and the emptiness of useless conversation. . . . It is an example of the art of spiritual communication. Its characteristics are the following:
1. Clearness above all. The dialogue supposes and demands comprehensibility. It is an outpouring of thought; it is an invitation to the exercise of the highest powers which man possesses. This very claim would be enough to classify the dialogue among the best manifestations of human activity and culture. This fundamental requirement is enough to enlist our apostolic care to review every angle of our language to guarantee that it be understandable, acceptable, and well-chosen.
2. A second characteristic of dialogue is its meekness, the virtue which Christ sets before us to be learned from Him: “Learn of Me, because I am meek and humble of heart.” The dialogue is not proud. It is not bitter, it is not offensive. Its authority is intrinsic to the truth it explains, to the charity it communicates, to the example it proposes. It is not a command. It is not an imposition. It is peaceful. It avoids violent methods. It is patient. It is generous.
3. Trust, not only in the power of one’s words, but also in an attitude of welcoming the trust of the interlocutor. Trust promotes confidence and friendship. It binds hearts in mutual adherence to the good which excludes all self-seeking.
4. Finally, pedagogical prudence, which esteems highly the psychological and moral circumstances of the listener whether he be a child, uneducated, unprepared, diffident, hostile. Prudence strives to learn the sensitivities of the hearer and requires that we adapt ourselves and the manner of our presentation in a reasonable way lest we be displeasing and incomprehensible to him.
In the dialogue, conducted in this manner, the union of truth and charity, of understanding and love is achieved.