Understanding the difference between what is discussion and what is dialogue will improve your level of communication. Read on…
In today’s world, even more than ever, we need to start improving our level of communication. I say this, because what I have noticed over a long period of time, is an ever increasing level of uninformed discussion driving outcomes due to meaningful dialogue not occurring in the first place😱
What is the difference between Discussion and Dialogue?
Discussion is often confused with dialogue. They are quite different as we shall see:
Tom Barrett suggests discussion is analysing different points of view.
Discussion should be about the merits of a case, to pull it apart, to present an analysis of different points of view. For example: an agenda, a presentation, a report, a lecture.
Unfortunately, because discussion is one sided, it can be quite divisive. Social media is a case in point. So too, is a person in a position of authority that displays narcissistic behaviour.
However, discussion can also be consensus orientated. Team meetings, project groups, many board meetings and cabinet are more about consensus i.e. as James Madden points out, without going to a formal vote. Consensus avoids the sense of winners and losers. Will informed discussion in this situation, is key.
Many of the models developed on the effective use of dialogue over the last 40 years are generally attributed to prominent philosopher Jürgen Haberman and his theory of communicative action.
As Camille Marquis points out: communicative action assumes the participants are equal in the dialogue and open to the other’s reasons. There is an exchange of reasons and counter-reasons, arguments and counter-arguments.
Or to put it more simply: dialogue is generally constructive. As Kevin Eikenberry suggests, dialogue is a process that allows us to think together.
The bottom line regarding dialogue: it is all about trust.
Dialogue is the language of the diplomat. Workshops also fall into this category as it is collaborative in nature. They are designed to inform (or they should be), promote better understanding and produce a list of potential solutions.
Discussion, for all intents and purposes, is informal debate, or “this is my view on the matter” and is concerned with making a decision. Dialogue on the other hand, is a meeting of the minds to examine a concept or idea, to collaborate through the sharing of information, knowledge, wisdom and experience.
With the local governments I work with, I use dialogue and discussion techniques to help them make better decisions through using the following steps:
- Use dialogue first. Typically, this means exploring issues for consideration through a workshop.
- The outcomes from the workshop then go forward for presentation at a briefing session – this allows for further (or final) clarification.
- The final phase involves the outcomes going to a Council (board) meeting for decision based on formal discussion (debate) or preferably, by consensus.
Good communication allows us to be part of the solution, not part of the problem 😊