D19- Debate versus Discussion versus Dialogue

In a debate the purposes are usually:

  • To win (“win-lose” thinking between two sides)
  • To defend your idea as best as you can (ego investment: “your idea”)
  • To look for your opponent’s weaknesses and use them to defeat him
  • To know who is right and who is wrong, or who can argue better
  • To settle an issue
  • (To learn is usually NOT a purpose of debate)

Discussion involves:

  • Presenting and talking about two or more ideas, solutions or options (many “sides”)
  • Analyzing and evaluating different proposals to make a rational choice on the best one
  • Listening and comparing different views to look for common ground for agreement or “win-win” combinations
  • Looking for the best choice or solution, usually based on “either/or” thinking
  • Not only rationality but also exercise of power, influence or peer pressure
  • Making a final choice.

Dialogue requires the following:

  • Ability to be aware of your thinking processes (metacognition or Peter Senge’s “left-hand column”)
  • Ability to recognize and suspend your own assumptions and judgments
  • Willingness to admit your own mistakes or limitations
  • Ability to listen to different viewpoints or interpretations
  • Willingness to admit that you have only a few pieces of the entire jigsaw puzzle
  • Ability to see the strength and value of a different idea; ability to see an idea from many perspectives
  • Ability to make explicit one’s “ladder of inference” (according to Peter Senge, your sequence of thinking between what you see and what you conclude)
  • Ability to see that there are many ways of framing a question, and there can be many right answers to a question (there are no “sides” or you don’t “take sides”)
  • Ability to think “out of the box”
  • Ability to put several different views into a more encompassing view
  • Ability to sense what is emergent.

Dialogue can lead to:

  • Generating many new ways of looking at the same thing
  • Generating novel frameworks
  • Understanding, appreciating, combining and sharing meanings; evolving and generating new meanings
  • Generating innovations and new learnings
  • Broadening choices.

Here are the four stages to Generative Dialogue adapted from William Isaacs’ book “Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together”:


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2 Responses to “D19- Debate versus Discussion versus Dialogue”

  1. icejobjob Says:







  2. David Locke Says:

    Dialogue can enable you to find common ground among those that do not agree. Work towards the generic.

    Thanks for this post.

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