Debate versus Dialogue

January 30, 2009

While cleaning up some old boxes, I came across a CD that I had been trying to locate for a few months.  One of the documents listed a tabular comparison of debate and dialogue.  I can’t remember where I sourced this from or whether I made it up myself.  So apologies if I have breached copyright.  It’s from a couple of years ago and my normal approach would be to do a few searches on the Internet and read some books and come up with such a table – so I might have done that – or just copied it from somewhere.  But I reckon it looks like a pretty good comparison; and I know a few people who are better debaters than conversationalists!

Debate (in normal text) versus Dialogue (in italics)

Assuming that there is a right answer
Assuming that others have pieces of the answer
(and that you have it)
and that together you can craft a solution

Combative:   Collaborative:
attempting to prove the other side wrong
attempting to find common understanding

About winning
About exploring common ground

Listening to find flaws and make counter-arguments
Listening to understand and find a basis for agreement

Defending assumptions as valid
Presenting assumptions for re-evaluation

Critiquing the other side’s position
Re-examining all positions

Defending one’s own views against those of others
Admitting that other’s thinking can improve one’s own

Searching for weaknesses and flaws in the other position                 
Searching for strengths and value in the other position

Seeking a conclusion or vote that ratifies your position
Discovering new options, not seeking closure