In Communication, Leadership


When we talk with one another there are choices as to how we do that.  DIALOGUE, DISCUSSION and DEBATE are three words we often hear when we’re talking about talking, so let’s clarify the differences:

  • DIALOGUE is about creating understanding and awareness as to one another’s perspectives. It is about opening up the space between us to create room for differences, creativity, curiosity and understanding. Dialogue leads to more effective and productive communication, as connections are created between individuals and their ideas, and actions are then taken based on a mutual understanding and focus on shared outcomes. Dialogue helps us understand, and where necessary, challenge our own, and others “mental models”
    • Dialogue has three key components, and it well worth the time and effort to learn and practice these as you engage in Dialogue:
      • Reflection: Becoming aware of our own thinking, reasoning and behaviour
        • What are you noticing about yourself as you participate in the dialogue?
        • What questions are emerging for you?
        • What reactions are you having to what is being said?
        • How are you aware of your verbal and your non- verbal responses?
      • Inquiry: Inquiring into others’ thinking and reasoning
        • Stay curious – don’t judge
        • Listen for facts and feelings
        • Ask questions where you may be making assumptions?
        • Ask questions when you want more detail and or need to better understand what the other is saying
      • Advocacy: Making our thinking and reasoning more visible to others
        • Explain yourself: don’t assume others have the same understanding of ideas and concepts as you do
        • Speak up – share your opinions, ideas and perspectives


  • Debate is about winning. It’s about proving my side vs. your side and it is typically combative with less focus on listening, and more focus on “telling and selling”


  • Discussion is often a “nice” version of debate. We’re more polite, but the focus still remains on winning, and bringing closure to the discussion