Dialogue versus Debate

For anyone seeking to know the truth both dialogue and debate are important, but I would suggest that dialogue is the more important of the two. We all know how quickly a debate can become ill-tempered, an exchange of insults rather than of arguments. Frequently, those entering a debate do so with the intention of winning, of scoring points, and emerging victorious from the fray. We are less interested in establishing or exploring truth than conquering the other, and those with the best debating skills are often capable of arguing for either ‘side’ with equal effectiveness. Dialogue starts with the recognition that both have something to learn from the other. It is a quest for truth, for mutual enrichment. It is humbler and more receptive, though equally hard work. Those who engage in dialogue may change their opinions as the conversation continues; those engaged in debate rarely do so. There are many calls today for ‘less toxic politics’, a ‘listening Church’. Perhaps we need to think more about dialogue than debate, let go of the desire to triumph and be content to learn instead.

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5 thoughts on “Dialogue versus Debate”

  1. Yes, I so agree and am saddened by the negative reactions to the synod always process which are emerging both from the ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ wings. Surely we have to trust one another and accept that the Spirit blows where it wills. Personally, I am very excited by the possibilities. It feels a bit like the heady days of Vatican II.

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  2. True as always. Certainly I’ve changed my mind over some matters, we rarely eat red meat for example and indeed nothing makes people dig their heels more than being harangued and shouted at.

    And I’ve just come back to this comment after wondering into the kitchen and seeing husband beyond vexed. PMQs was being watched. And I need to calm down.

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  3. Great piece. It pinged onto my phone as we were talking in class (on zoom) about dialogue not either or covers around in appreciating observations of teaching! We are as a society, entrenched in a binary culture that totally de-energises any areas of coming together.

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