Monday, June 30, 2008

How to reason together more effectively.

“I never saw an instance of one or two disputants convincing the other by argument”
— Thomas Jefferson.

It's been my experience that many contentious conversations at work end up in argument and debate. As a result, they do little to resolve the issues at hand. Debate creates a lot of heat - but not much light! Dialog, on the other hand, is a lesser-known form of conversation and a different way of relating to people. It differs from debate because it seeks to inform and learn, rather than just to persuade.


Is all about winning.

Assumes that there’s one right answer (and you have it).

Attempts to prove the other person wrong.

Listens to find flaws and make counter-arguments.

Defends your assumptions.

Criticizes the other person’s point of view.

Defends your views against others.

Searches for weaknesses in the other side's position.

Seeks an outcome that agrees with your position.

Doesn't focus on feelings or relationships.

Often belittles or deprecates the other person.


Assumes that others have pieces of the answer.

Attempts to find common understanding.

Listens to understand and find a basis for agreement.

Brings up your assumptions for inspection and discussion.

Re-examines all points of view.

Admits that the other person’s thinking can improve your own.

Searches for strengths and value in the other person's position.

Discovers new possibilities and opportunities.

Enlarges and possibly changes the participants' point of view.

By engaging in dialog, we:
- transform a difference of opinion into something that isn't negative,
- reduce the polarization that prevents two parties from recognizing shared values,
- and help advocates form working relationships around common interests.

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