If you don’t have a map for the future, dialogue helps you to find a safer route. In its purest description, dialogue is a tool to rebuild trust and an aid to finding lasting solutions.
Debate helps to make one’s voice heard and is a vital part of democracy. Without a doubt, the right to debate must be respected, especially in times of peaceful coexistence.
In essence, the aim of a debate is to win, to convince, to argue, to find weaknesses in the other, to judge the behaviour of others, to look for weakness in the argument of others, and it uses a confrontational language. In a debate, to change your opinion is considered to be a weakness.
Listen to the other
Dialogue, on the other hand, helps us to listen to the voice of others and helps us to learn something we do not know. Dialogue aims to understand, explain, listen, seek out strengths in the arguments of others, has self-discipline, is tolerant, tries to make the other feel safe, and uses empowering language. In dialogue, to change your opinion is considered to be a strength.
When the memories of conflict are still fresh, when the flames of violence have still not yet disappeared, and when the timid efforts of finding solutions have barely started, some voices will claim “let us go for a debate”. Although it is a legitimate option, we have to look back and see the road travelled and ask: “How did we get here?”
If the debate was part of the road, we must see if there are other options that serve to rebuild trust and to find better solutions. Dialogue can be a better option, and that is why we must understand the difference between debate and dialogue.
To live with disagreements
Dialogue is a form of communication, which serves to listen and to learn. But for that to happen, it is very important to make a great effort to listen. Without listening, there is no dialogue, and what remains is to continue with more of the same which caused the conflict.
In addition to listening, you have to ask good questions. Good questions help us to clarify doubts and even make room for our truth. Listening to and asking good questions is a combination that serves to respect differences and live with disagreements.
Improve your analysis of the conflict
Dialogue is humble, but it is not about accepting or forgiving or justifying crimes, abuse or misconduct. It is about understanding how the world looks from the other side of the conflict.
When you see the conflict from the point of view of the other, you can better see the possibilities, but also see the risks and improve your analysis of the conflict.
If you don’t have a map for the future, dialogue helps you to find a safer route. Dialogue is a tool to rebuild trust, and on that road we might find the lasting solutions we need for the future.
Text: Alfredo Zamudio, Director, Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue
The Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue has more than 20 years of experience in developing methodologies, and supporting dialogue projects in the Western Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kenya, Ukraine, Norway, Poland and other countries. The Nansen Center provides capacity building on dialogue, with training, seminars and workshops on dialogue, and is located at the Nansen Academy in Lillehammer, Norway.
Published: December 13th 2019