Do you need to have a discussion or a dialogue?

“Cormac was completely aware that he was being manipulated, but how he could not see. He reckoned that when he did find out, the surprise would be a nasty one. That was how it usually went.”

– Neal Asher, Gridlinked

I have heard some people bragging that if they have a solution or conclusion then they can get any group they are part of come to that conclusion. That it is so easy to lead the group into their way of thinking. They are probably really good at rhetorics and debating, but I don’t think the solution they push through will be a longterm one. I think that the second they leave the meeting people will have doubts and not really try to implement it, and then you get stuck in a never-ending loop of meetings where people say yes during the meeting and no outside it.

When I facilitate some groups I start the meeting by talking about the difference between debate, discussion, and dialogue.

Debate means to beat down. (As a side note: I think it is very interesting that we have based our democratic system on beating our opponents down)

Discuss means to shake apart. A discussion is where we take a subject and try to look at it from all angles so we can come to a similar conclusion about it.

Dialogue means to speak across. A dialogue is where we need to talk about a subject and understand one another’s point of view and we don’t need to agree about it.

After talking about this I usually say that I don’t want any debates, and then ask them: Do you need to have a discussion or a dialogue?