The meeting between Tung Chee-hwa and the democrats on Monday ended in a predictable, disappointing fashion. But it could prove to be the beginning of a new relationship - if only both sides will give dialogue a chance. At least the chief executive emerged from the 75-minute talks smiling. This, in itself, can be regarded as progress. When he last met Democratic Party members in December he was reported to have slammed his fist on a table in anger. Yesterday, he was positive about the chat with some of his fiercest political rivals, saying the purpose had been for him to listen and that their views would be thoroughly considered. The 17 lawmakers from the democratic camp were not so charitable. They wasted no time in attacking the chief executive, accusing him of failing to engage in genuine dialogue. Some even declared that the only option now in the fight for democracy is for people to take to the streets. The speed with which the democrats were prepared to dismiss the negotiations does them little credit. They went into the meeting with few expectations. To express such surprise and disappointment at the lack of concrete progress made is both silly and disingenuous. They, as much as Mr Tung, need to be tolerant and to build bridges. They, too, need to show their political acumen, rather than seeking to score cheap points. Impatience is the enemy of successful dialogue. The demands of the democrats were never going to be met at this initial meeting. As this newspaper said on Monday, this should be the start of the process, not the end. However, everyone will now be watching to see whether Mr Tung was genuinely listening. For him, Monday's talks represented the minimum requirement in his efforts to show that after the mass demonstration on July 1 he is prepared to work with his critics. Listening to them is stage one in the process, and this has now been completed. Stage two is to consider the views which the democrats expressed; presumably he is doing that now. Stage three will be to show in his policymaking that he has taken those views into account, and allowed them to have an impact. This does not mean he has to do everything the democrats want. But there must be some tangible signs that the discussions have borne fruit. He must show he is prepared to be more inclusive. Mr Tung can do that right away, by setting out a timetable for further talks with the democratic camp. To further underline his commitment, he should produce an agenda, providing a clear framework for the future progress of the talks. It would help if he could come up with a way forward for both the national security laws consultation and for discussion of political reform as allowed under the Basic Law. These two concerns of the democratic camp are shared by many who joined the recent protest marches. There remains widespread concern about the way in which the government intends to handle Article 23 of the Basic Law. Mr Tung should signal that he is prepared to remove the bill which is before the legislative council and prepare a new one for the consultation. This would be a sign that he is genuinely listening. Making a commitment to early consultation on democratic reforms and setting the wheels in motion, instead of sticking to the vague line that there will be plenty of time for debate, is also needed. But determination to make the negotiations work has to be shown by both sides. In the end, it may all come to nothing. But at least they would be able to say they tried. At this critical time, we need to pursue the politics of the possible.