Moving from Debate to Dialogue

In an already divided world, we need a way of talking about ideas that don’t drive us further apart. Debate and discussion position us as adversaries, where dialogue centers community and humanity. Practicing dialogue and improving our ability to do so can bring us together.

View the table below to see the comparison of debate, discussion and dialogue, or download a PDF handout. 

DEBATE

DISCUSSION

DIALOGUE

Succeed / Win

Present ideas

Broaden our own perspective

Look for weakness

Seek answers and solutions

Look for shared meaning

Stress Disagreement

Persuade others

Find places of agreement

Defend out opinion

Enlist others

Express paradox and ambiguity

Focus on right and wrong

Share information

Bring out areas of ambivalence

Advocate for a single perspective

Solve our own and others’ problems

Allow for and invite differences of opinion

Search for flaws in logic

Give answers

Discover collective meaning

Judge other’s viewpoints as inferior, invalid, or distorted

Achieve preset goals

Challenge ourselves and others’ preconceived notions

Deny other’s feelings

Discount feelings as inappropriate

Explore thoughts and feelings

Listen with a view of countering

Listen for places of disagreement

Listen to understand, without judgment

Discount the validity of feelings

Avoid feelings

Validate others’ experiences and feelings

Focus on conflict and difference as advantage

Avoid areas of strong conflict and difference

Articulate areas of conflict and difference

Disregard relationships

Retain relationships

Build relationships

Use silence to gain advantage

Avoid silence

Honor silence

Table adapted from Tanya Kachwaha (2002), Huang-Nissan (1999), Consultant/Trainers Southwest (1992)

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Meagan Pollock, PhD

Dr. Meagan Pollock envisions a world where personal and social circumstances are not obstacles to achieving potential, and where kindness, inclusivity, and conservation prevail.

An international speaker, teacher, engineer, and equity leader, her mission is to provide services, tools, and resources that inspire awareness and initiate action.

As an engineer turned educator, Meagan Pollock is focused on engineering equity into education and the workforce.

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