Dialogue? Why do we do it? 6/21/09
Isn’t it a part of human nature to want to compete? We participate in sports in the hope of winning; we play card games, enter talent shows and beauty contests, participate in spelling bees and quiz shows---all with the goal of emerging as victor. Isn’t our motive in a dialogue the same as in a debate, i.e. to present the better argument and hopefully to persuade the other to our way of thinking? If so, then the challenge is: how to go about this constructively so as to avoid alienation and instead build trust and goodwill.
Here are some things to avoid:
1) a superior attitude (I’m OK, you’re not OK)
2) closing the door on new ideas or info.
3) put-downs; making the other person feel unvalued.
4) hidden agendas; not being honest.
5) being defensive, or causing the other to be defensive (acting out of emotion
rather than reason)
Things to do:
1) listen and give feed-back: “What I heard you say is____. Did I hear
2) ask questions: “What do you think about____?”
3) give credit where credit is due: “That’s a good thought,” or “a challenging
idea”; or “I can tell that you’ve given this a lot of thought”.
4) define your terms to avoid ambiguity.
5) be honest about feelings, yet respond from reason.