- Dialogue is collaborative: two or more sides work together toward common understanding.
- Debate is oppositional: two sides oppose each other and attempt to prove each other wrong.
- In dialogue, finding common ground is the goal.
- In debate, winning is the goal.
- In dialogue, one listens to the other side(s) in order to understand, find meaning and find agreement.
- In debate, one listens to the other side in order to find flaws and to counter its arguments.
- Dialogue enlarges and possibly changes a participants point of view.
- Debate affirms a participant's own point of view.
- Dialogue reveals assumptions for re-evaluation.
- Debate defends assumptions as truth.
- Dialogue causes introspection on ones own position.
- Debate causes critique of the other position.
- Dialogue opens the possibility of reaching a better solution than any of the original solutions.
- Debate defends one's own positions as the best solution and excludes other solutions.
- Dialogue creates an open-minded attitude: an openness to being wrong and an openness to change.
- Debate creates a close-minded attitude, a determination to be right.
- In dialogue, one submits ones best thinking, knowing that other people's reflections will help improve it rather than destroy it.
- In debate, one submits one's best thinking and defends it against challenge to show that it is right.
- Dialogue calls for temporarily suspending one's beliefs.
- Debate calls for investing wholeheartedly in one's beliefs.
- In dialogue, one searches for basic agreements.
- In debate, one searches for glaring differences.
- In dialogue one searches for strengths in the other positions.
- In debate one searches for flaws and weaknesses in the other position.
- Dialogue involves a real concern for the other person and seeks to not alienate or offend.
- Debate involves a countering of the other position without focusing on feelings or relationship and often belittles or deprecates the other person.
- Dialogue assumes that many people have pieces of the answer and that together they can put them into a workable solution.
- Debate assumes that there is a right answer and that someone has it.
- Dialogue remains open-ended.
- Debate implies a conclusion.
Adapted from a paper prepared by Shelley Berman, which was based on discussions of the Dialogue Group of the Boston Chapter of Educators for Social Responsibility (ESR).
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