I enjoy thoughtful conversations on a wide range of topics and I am fortunate enough to have them with some extremely knowledgeable and passionate people. Because I have a rather diverse set of friends and colleagues, rarely a day goes by without at least one extremely thought-provoking conversation. And if I have a need to reach outside my immediate company, there is always an online forum or podcast that can satisfy my curiosity. What I have found over time is though many people have a need for such a conversation, they come from one of two camps. There are those who like to engage in dialogue and those who prefer a debate. To understand what I mean, I offer the below definitions:

  • Debate: a discussion on a particular topic in which opposing arguments are put forward.
  • Dialogue:  a conversation or discussion to resolve a problem.

It is my opinion that the above definitions fall short of the real difference between the two, which is the mindset of the participants. Debaters like to argue; Dialoguers prefer to resolve. Debaters want you to change your mind; dialoguers are open to their opinions being changed through the course of the conversation. Debaters need to be right before they can move on; dialoguers are interested in moving on, but only after the benefit of hearing a differing opinion.

You might have already guessed that I am not interested in debate. Yes, I engage with debaters, but I do so with a dialoguers mindset. I have no intention of changing their mind, as that is not my intent. My intent is to give them the opportunity to either change my mind or help me to validate my position. Talking with a fellow dialoguer is far more enjoyable because those conversations allow for another outcome that debater engagement does not afford; the opportunity to develop a hybrid idea together that is not aligned with either of our going in opinions. It’s akin to the old Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercial from the 1980s where a young lady was upset that a young man got chocolate in her peanut butter, while the other wasn’t happy that there was peanut butter on his chocolate. The result was an outcome that both appreciated. The debater wouldn’t have cared enough to consider the potential third outcome.

I appreciate debaters, but I seek out dialoguers because I value people who care enough, are confident enough, and have the courage to question their convictions.

  • Are you a debater or a dialoguer?
  • Do you agree the difference between the two?  If not, please consider engaging in a dialogue (or one-sided debate) on the subject.
  • Will your next conversation be a debate or a dialogue?