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3.4: Moving from Debate to Dialogue

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    A central idea in constructive conversations is moving from debate to dialogue. You can see from the first cartoon, the way that many people experience debate. They feel as though they are under attack and being hit over the head with other people's words. In debate, it's more of a competition, where one person is viewed as right and the other is viewed as wrong. The 2nd cartoon depicts a situation where the goal is to listen and learn from one another and to identify where there is commonality and opportunity for finding solution.

    Moving from Debate to Dialogue: The Idea

    Debate cartoon. While person is talking, another person is "clubbing" another person over the head with words.
    Debate. Credit: Igor Kopelnitsky.
    Dialogue cartoon, people sitting around a table.
    Dialogue. Credit: Tim Casswell.

    It is important to emphasize that there is a time and place for debate. There are facts about Marcellus Shale and there is also misinformation about Marcellus Shale. Dialogue doesn't mean that there are no facts and anything goes. However, while it is important to dispel myths, it is more important to learn how to talk to one another. The goal of dialogue is to create better understanding so that people can find mutual solutions. Dialogue does not mean having to agree with the other person's position. It doesn't mean that everyone comes to think the same way, but rather people are understanding what other people's positions are and why they hold them.

    The following quotation explains what dialogue is not:

    "Dialogue is not a way to talk an issue to death. Dialogue is not consensus building. Dialogue provides a better understanding of other's viewpoints, but it does not necessarily create agreement. What it ensures is that any remaining disagreement is based on real differences, not on misunderstanding or mistrust. Dialogue does not replace debate or decision making, it precedes them."

    Credit: Rosell, S. A., & Gantwerk, H. (2010). Moving beyond polls and focus groups. In D. Yankelovich & W. Friedman (Eds.), Toward wiser public judgment (pp. 110-128). Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press.

    This page titled 3.4: Moving from Debate to Dialogue is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Marcellus Matters (John A. Dutton: e-Education Institute) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.