Here is some further input from Richard Moore about how to engage in productive dialog with people holding widely different beliefs and models of the world.–t.h.g.
I agree that defense of dogmas is a key concept. We all need to have a ‘working model’ of the world, in order to get along in it. If we can hold it as a model, something useful but not final, then we are in a position to learn and to converse openly and creatively. In the case of most people, and we must simply accept this, models are held to one degree or another as ‘truth’, and the less deeply a model is rooted in real understanding, the more intense the defensiveness when challenged, creating barriers to both learning and productive dialog.
If we accept this reality, then it becomes clear that productive dialog, among people with differing models, can only happen in the right kind of ‘container’ for that dialog. It’s not about getting clever about ‘breaking down the defensive barriers’, rather it’s about providing a ‘safe space’, where each person is listened to with respect, and challenges to beliefs are avoided. When people feel ‘heard’, and they are not attacked, then their ‘defend’ button does get not pressed; they begin to relax, and pay more attention to what others are saying. In fact, much of the content in people’s dogmas turns out to have little relevance to the real world or to the problems we face as a society.