Merriam Webster Dictionary defines Dialogue as “a conversation between two or more persons, an exchange of ideas and opinions.” When we are stuck in our own worldview during a conflict, we can slip into a debate rather than a dialogue. In a debate, rather than listening to understand the other person, we listen so that we can refute their ideas; our goal becomes winning – rather than transforming – the conflict.
The following graphic contrasting debate and dialogue comes from diversity coach Holiday Phillips. Dialogue is the goal!
|Assumes there is one right answer (and you have it)||Assumes others have pieces of an answer and you can craft a solution together|
|Style is combative, attempting to prove the “other side” wrong||Style is collaborative, seeks to find common understanding|
|Listens to find flaws and counter argue||Listens to understand|
|Critiques only the other position||Critiques all views, including your own|
|Defends your own views at all costs||Allows others’ thinking to improve your own|
|Encourages search for differences||Encourage search for basic agreement|
|Creates a winner/loser and discourages further conversation||Creates an open end, leaving the topic open for further discussion|
|Involves no focus on feelings, often actively seeking to belittle or offend||Involves a real concern for the other, doesn’t actively seek to alienate or offend|
Debate vs. dialogue by Jeseye Tanner is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence.