Dialogue and Debate: What should we strive for?

The SCA is composed of a diverse population. We have different experiences, we have different beliefs, and we have different backgrounds, and we are all committed to valuing the worth of all individuals and promoting a safe and respectful environment. We want to work together to explore our histories, our passions, and our hobbies.

But, how can we do that when our opinions differ?

One way is by engaging in dialogue instead of debate.

Dialogue allows us to converse with others and seek common understanding when opinions differ and tensions are high. Dialogue helps us navigate moments of tension and disagreement and mediates us forward to a place of renewed connection.

In order to engage in dialogue, we need to be able to recognize the differences between dialogue and debate.

What are the characteristics of dialogue and debate?

Dialogue is a conversation or exchange of ideas where the representative parties are aimed at a collaborative resolution to their conflict. The focus is on listening without judgement, sharing ideas, developing a common understanding, respecting others’ experiences and emotions, and discovering new solutions. Dialogue invites inquiry.

Debate is a formal or public argument between opposing parties who are convinced their side is right and the other is wrong. The focus is on finding flaws, making counterarguments, critiquing the other side, defending strongly held convictions, and winning. “Debate involves a countering of the other position without focusing on feelings or relationship and often belittles or deprecates the other person…. Debate implies a conclusion” that chooses only one side (link).

Dialogue is collaborative.

Debate is oppositional.

assumes there is a right answer, and I have it.assumes that many people have pieces
of the answer and that together, they can
craft a solution.
is combative – participants attempt to
prove the other side wrong.
is collaborative – participants work
together toward common understanding.
is about winning.is about exploring common good.
entails listening to find flaws and
make counter arguments.
entails listening to understand and find
meaning and agreement.
I defend my assumptions as truth.I reveal my assumptions for reevaluation.
I critique the other side’s position.I re-examine all positions
I defend my own views against those
of others.
I admit that others’ thinking can improve
my own.
I search for weaknesses in others’
I search for strength and value in other’s
I seek a conclusion or vote that ratifies
my position.
I discover new options.
From The Magic of Dialogue by Daniel Yankelovich

When we are conversing in SCA spaces, we need to be mindful of whether or not we are engaging in debate or dialogue.

Recognizing the characteristics of dialogue and debate will allow us to self-reflect and adjust so that we can stay in a place of dialogue. It can also help us identify when the person we’re talking to is focused on debate and allow us to choose whether to try to foster a dialogue or to step away from the conversation.

Engaging in dialogue is one way that we can foster a diverse, respectful, and inclusive environment in the SCA.

Links and Resources:

Want to read more about the SCA’s policies and resources related to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion? Check out the DEI Resources page and the document library.