The Distinction between Dialogue and Debate
Welcome to the February ICF Board Column. In January, I wrote that this year would be a year of Growth, Change and Transition. We started that important discourse at our first Global Board meeting of the year in Bangkok, Thailand.
Our four new board members had to immerse themselves quickly so that we could have meaningful discussions, enabling us to keep moving forward. As you know, any change of team member requires patience from the existing members and ability to dance with the “unknown” by the new members to ensure that ongoing discussions and topics don’t have to start again.
We know that in order to get the best outcomes, it is important that we have dialogues that consider different perspectives. With the diversity of cultures and experiences of our board members, we do get that. We also get to use our great coaching skills of listening deeply, asking powerful and searching questions to create new awareness.
I was reminded recently of the distinction between dialogue and debate and how important it is to know the difference. In our board meetings, to ensure we get to the right place for ICF and our members, we need dialogue. In today’s world, it has never been more important to listen and seek to understand different perspectives, so I wanted to share a piece* I was given about Dialogue vs Debate, that I hope you find useful:
1-DIALOGUE is to collaborate: multiple sides work toward shared understanding. DEBATE is oppositional: two opposing sides try to prove each other wrong.
2-In DIALOGUE, one listens to understand, to make meaning and to find common ground. In DEBATE, one listens to find flaws, to spot differences, and to center arguments.
3-DIALOGUE enlarges and possibly changes a participant’s point of view. DEBATE affirms a participant’s point of view.
4-DIALOGUE reveals assumptions for reevaluation. DEBATE defends assumptions as truth.
5-DIALOGUE creates an open-minded attitude, an openness to being wrong and an openness to change. DEBATE creates a closed-minded attitude and a determination to be correct.
6-In DIALOGUE, one submits one’s best thinking, expecting that others’ reflections will help improve it rather than threaten it. In DEBATE, one submits one’s best thinking and defends it against a challenge to show that it is correct.
7-In DIALOGUE, one searches for the strengths in all positions. In DEBATE, one searches for the weakness in all positions.
8-DIALOGUE respects all the other participants and seeks not to alienate or offend. DEBATE rebuts contrary positions and may belittle or deprecate other participants.
9-DIALOGUE assumes that many people have pieces of answers and that cooperation can lead to workable solutions. DEBATE assumes a single correct answer that someone already has.
See you in March,
Hilary Oliver, PCC
2017 ICF Global Board Chair
*From Socratic Seminars