Dialogue Doesn’t Have to Be Hard. Try These

As a frequent user of Facebook (@AamirahsWorld), I often find that topics posted by friends become a breeding ground for heated debates. There is lots of name-calling, insults, and emotions flying all around. As a result, I shy away from posting anything that may spark controversy, mainly because folks do not seem to know how to engage in constructive conversation.

Debates certainly have a time and place. And they can be quite fruitful, when the intent that everyone agrees to disagree, is clear. Yet, what begins as an open dialogue, quickly stems into a platform for bullying and personality-bashing. In search of a better way to communicate about sensitive issues, I came upon an article by the Co-Intelligence Institute.

Here goes their list of guidelines to keep in mind when engaged in an informal, open conversation on social media and elsewhere. I don’t expect this to change the way we communicate overnight, especially online, as social media conveys the illusion of anonymity to say whatever comes out of one’s mouth. However, it’s worth noting that there is an opportunity to engage in healthy conversations if we really want to have an impact through the Art of Dialogue.

  1. Dialogue is collaborative: two or more sides work together toward common understanding. Debate is oppositional: two sides oppose each other and attempt to prove each other wrong.
  2. In dialogue, finding common ground is the goal. In debate, winning is the goal.
  3. In dialogue, one listens to the other side(s) in order to understand, find meaning, and find agreement. In debate, one listens to the other side in order to find flaws and to counter its arguments.
  4. Dialogue enlarges and possibly changes a participant’s point of view. Debate affirms a participant’s own point of view.
  5. Dialogue reveals assumptions for reevaluation. Debate defends assumptions as truth.
  6. Dialogue causes introspection on one’s own position. Debate causes critique of the other position.
  7. Dialogue opens the possibility of reaching a better solution than any of the original solutions. Debate defends one’s own positions as the best solution and excludes other solutions.
  8. Dialogue creates an open-minded attitude: an openness to being wrong and an openness to change. Debate creates a closed-minded attitude, a determination to be right.
  9. In dialogue, one submits one’s best thinking, knowing that other people’s reflections will help improve it rather than destroy it. In debate, one submits one’s best thinking and defends it against challenge to show that it is right.
  10. Dialogue calls for temporarily suspending one’s beliefs. Debate calls for investing wholeheartedly in one’s beliefs.
  11. In dialogue, one searches for basic agreements. In debate, one searches for glaring differences.
  12. In dialogue, one searches for strengths in the other positions. In debate, one searches for flaws and weaknesses in the other positions.
  13. Dialogue involves a real concern for the other person and seeks to not alienate or offend. Debate involves a countering of the other position without focusing on feelings or relationship and often belittles or deprecates the other person.
  14. Dialogue assumes that many people have pieces of the answer and that together they can put them into a workable solution. Debate assumes that there is a right answer and that someone has it.
  15. Dialogue remains open-ended. Debate implies a conclusion.

What do you think? Does this resonate with you?

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