Sharing emotions with strangers during Dialogue Evening

“When did you last have a really good talk?” On Tuesday evening this question was put to more than forty students and employees who had come along to the Dialogue Evening. For the fifth straight year Studium Generale organized the evening in cooperation with TINT and Eindhoven in Dialogue. This time round the theme was ‘Facing your future’. In the two-and-a-half hours that the participants were in conversation with one another, secrets and emotions were shared.

photo Kamil Parzychowski

That everyone interpreted the evening's theme in his or her own way was soon clear. The person who had changed someone's life was one of the conversation topics, but stories were also told of obstacles that had continued to play a role throughout people's lives. The subject matter was sometimes distressing. Painful stories about growing up, loneliness and depression. Tears were shed and support was given. Nothing was off-limits.

Gijs van de Sande, program creator at SG, opened the session. “A bilingual evening,” says Van de Sande, because those present included many internationals. He explained the guidelines to be followed and told his audience about the 'dialogue attitude' and the dialogue steps. An important aim of the evening was that the participants should acquire new insights.

Treating each other respectfully is an important part of the dialogue attitude, and ask no questions that you yourself wouldn't be happy to answer. As a group, safeguard a fine and safe conversation; that was the motto of the evening. Van de Sande asked everyone to respect each other's privacy: “Feel free to share stories, but name no names.”

Sharing experiences

The evening was divided into four steps: introductions, sharing experiences, dreams and taking action. The dialogue guide warned early on that the largest part of the evening would probably be devoted to ‘sharing experiences’. He was right.

Someone spoke about a turning point in his life: “That moment was the first time that I stood up for myself instead of saying ‘yes’ to everything.” A girl talked emotionally about her difficult time at high school. “I didn't dare be myself there, because that was not accepted. But now I can be.”

As well as the many personal stories, to which everyone listened attentively, there was much laughter. For most people this felt like a safe space. This was greatly helped by not knowing each other. The dialogue session was due to last until 22:00 hours, but fifteen minutes before the finish it was clear that for the last two steps - dreams and taking action - there was little time left.

Share this article