Debate or Dialogue

After my previous post about different types of discussions I got to think there have to be some differentiations already. But they are likely not just all called discussion. So what other forms of discussion are there?

After some searching I found that the most characteristic forms are debate and dialogue.

I was not sure what exactly the difference was between them, so I decided to take some existing definitions (here and here) and put them together in this post. That way I can compare them and see what I like and dislike about each.

Polarising or Collaborating

Debate is competitive and or oppositional, two or more opposing sides try to prove each other wrong.

Dialogue is collaborative, cooperative, multiple sides work toward a shared understanding.

Counter or Listen

In debate one listens to find flaws, to spot differences, and to counter arguments.

In dialogue, one listens to understand, to make meaning and to find common ground.

Closed or Open

Debate creates a close-minded attitude, a determination to be right.

Dialogue creates an open-minded attitude, an openness to being wrong and an openness to change.

Defend or Reflect

In debate one submits one’s best thinking and defends it against challenge to show that it is right.

In dialogue, one submits ones best thinking, expecting that other people’s reflections will help improve it rather than threaten it.

Invest or Suspend

Debate calls for investing wholeheartedly in one’s beliefs.

Dialogue calls for temporarily suspending of one’s beliefs.

Belittle or Respect

Debate rebuts contrary positions and may belittle or deprecate other participants.

Dialogue respects all the other participants and seeks not to alienate or offend.

One or Many

Debate assumes a single right answer that somebody already has.

Dialogue assumes that many people have pieces of answers and that cooperation can lead to a greater understanding.

Winning or Common ground

In debate winning is the goal.

In dialogue, finding common ground is the goal.

Critique or Introspect

Debate causes critique of the other position.

Dialogue causes introspection on one’s own position.

Own or Other

Debate defends ones own position as the best solution and excludes other solutions.

Dialogue opens the possibility of reaching a better solution than any of the original solutions.

Conclusion or Open-end

Debate demands a conclusion.

Dialogue remains open-ended.

Flaws or Strenghts

In debate one searches for flaws and weaknesses in the other position.

In dialogue, one searches for strengths in the other positions.

Disapprove or Concern

Debate involves a countering of the other position without focusing on feelings or relationship and of the belittles or deprecates the other person.

Dialogue involves a real concern for the other person and seeks to not alienate or offend.

It is already getting more clear what I do and do not like so much about each. Actually I quite like debates. I like to differentiate further if necessary. And from the dialogue I especially like the suspending of a belief.

But there are several things I absolutely do not like about debates. But there are also several things I do not like so much about dialogues. At least about the definitions as they are stated here.

So I think I would like a form which combines both. The open mind and respect of the dialogue combined with the critical and opposing nature of the debate.


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