Skip navigation Search

Debate vs. Dialogue

Everyone wants to be heard, but a conversation cannot be had if everyone is talking over each other. Use these tips to help navigate difficult conversations.

(Adapted from resources developed by Scarboro Missions)


Mutual understanding of each other’s point of view

  • I listen to learn. I take seriously someone else’s point of view.
  • I listen for strengths, so that I may affirm and learn someone’s point of view.
  • I speak for myself. I use my own experiences and point of view. I try to examine my own assumptions.
  • I ask questions to clarify and increase my understanding of someone else’s point of view (I try to suspend judgment; and give my conversation partner a fair hearing).
  • I allow my conversation partner to complete a thought. I wait until she/he is finished to respond.
  • I concentrate on others’ words, feelings, body language, and other modes of communication.
  • I respect others’ experiences as true and valid for them. I desire to learn from these experiences to come to new understandings of my own.
  • I respect others’ feelings.
  • I honor silence.
  • I look for ways to extend the conversation.


Argument of my position over that of another

  • I listen to counter. I am closed to someone else’s ideas.
  • I listen for weakness, so that I may discount and devalue someone’s point of view.
  • I speak for others. I assert my assumptions about others’ experiences and motives, in an effort to vindicate my point of view.
  • I ask questions to control the conversation, or to confuse my conversation partner. I look for ways to affirm my point of view. My goal is to win the debate.
  • I interrupt my conversation partner or change the subject. 
  • I concentrate on my response or my next point.
  • I interpret others’ experiences as naïve, incorrect, or distorted (while championing my own). I desire to bring my conversation partner to my point of view.
  • I distrust feelings as manipulative.
  • I use silence to my advantage.
  • I look for ways to end the conversation.