With my recent post encouraging us to seek the Other, it seems like an important time to dive into debate and dialogue as tools we use in communication. One of these is, by definition, a better way to deeply listen to someone with a different viewpoint.
Quick question for you: What comes to mind with dialogue?
I personally tend to think of open mindedness, seeking common ground, and a willingness to change in belief or action based upon what one hears. I see dialogue as not being zero-sum.
What about debate?
It feels more confrontational, critical, difference-based, focused on winning and losing. Debate is usually VERY zero-sum.
We know that one of these things is the place we should go when we’re dealing with people and ideas who are different from us. But dialogue requires a lot of work. And energy. And attention.
Is debate inherently “bad”? Definitely not, and it can be used very effectively. If you’ve been given the opportunity to argue a side in a pro/con that you don’t agree with, you know how much you learned (and that you possibly changed your mind afterwards!)
Fostering dialogue within a group, however, improves inclusion. It helps us make better collective decisions. In the most dramatic situations, it helps foster peace.
Clearly this is the extreme, idealized version of deep listening.
However, if I think about the times when I have sincerely tried to listen like Thay describes, I have learned so much about myself, about others, about the world.
From a more business-based perspective, it is possible to foster deep dialogue among team members using a collection of tools.
And if you’re wondering, yes, one of my 2017 goals is to work on my deep listening. I would challenge you to join me. I would also challenge you to help keep me accountable on the days when I’m struggling.