Debate vs Dialogue

Being and effective adviser and advocate for Patient Family-Centered Care starts with recognizing that we are all working towards making St. Jude the best it can be. You may work with clinical staff, administrative staff, fellow advisors, or community partners. You may serve on committees, workgroups, councils, or adviser boards. Though there are a multitude of interactive ways to participate, the goal of every interaction is the same: foster dialogue! Some people may think dialogue is just talking back and forth but it’s much more than that.

Dialogue requires you to practice good conversation skills. Debate means stating your point of view without taking time to consider other options or getting your point across while trying to push others back down. Dialogue is the process of putting two or more different opinions together to create a unified idea.

The chart below can help you evaluate if you are have a debate or experiencing dialogue.

Debate Dialogue
Assumes that there is a right answer and someone has it. Assumes that many people have pieces of the answer and together they can create a solution.
Defending assumptions as truth. Revealing assumptions for re-evaluation.
Combative: participants attempt to prove the other side wrong. Collaborative: participants work together toward common understanding.
Defending one’s own views against those of others. Reflecting on and re-evaluating one’s own views.
Listens to find flaws and make counterarguments. Listens to understand, find meaning and agreement.
Searches for problems and weaknesses. Searches for strengths and value in others’ ideas.
Countering of the other position without consideration of feelings or relationship -- often belittles or deprecates the other person. Genuine concern for the other person and seeks to not alienate or offend.
About winning. About discovering new options.