Moving Beyond Debate: What About the Magic of (Real) Dialogue?

Diversity of thought is the art of thinking differently together.

It’s an inherent part of human nature to process information and form opinions of our own. These opinions are shaped by our background, education levels, access to information, and hundreds of other variables. Needless to say, our opinions don’t always match, and neither should they. A diversity of ideas and viewpoints is what helps us to build more community.

Debate: Battling for the Win

In a debate, two parties with opposing ideas attempt to convince each other. Rather than focusing on the conversation itself, as is the case with dialogue, the outcome is what matters. When it comes to debating, there is always a connotation of winning and losing: the party with the most convincing arguments wins the debate. This is done by countering the arguments of the “losing” party.

Dialogue: Opinion-Sharing for Discussion’s Sake

We all know the most basic of these conversation types: the simple dialogue or discussion. At some point, we’ve all found ourselves discussing topics close to our hearts with someone who had a very different viewpoint. Discussions are simple exchanges of information, experiences, and beliefs, that do not necessarily lead to a solution or consensus.  In the case of dialogue, the act of conversing is far more important than the points one makes or the topic one tackles.

The focus lies on fostering connections, building relationships, and reaching a mutual feeling of understanding

Ready for the Magic of Real Dialogue?

We embrace curiosity, inspire collaboration, and champion deep thinking for real change. It used to be thought that the events that changed the world were things like big bombs, maniac politicians, huge earthquakes, or vast population movements, but it has now been realized that this is a very old-fashioned view held by people totally out of touch with modern thought. The things that change the world, according to Chaos theory, are the tiny things. A butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazonian jungle, and subsequently a storm ravages half of Europe. The time has come for each of us to begin “flapping our wings” to create ripples of change “for good” across the universe. Won’t you join us!

Better Together: Making Friends as We Make “Shift” Happen



Dennis Pitocco
Dennis Pitocco
DENNIS is the Founder & Chief ReImaginator of 360° Nation, encompassing a wide range of multimedia enterprises, including BizCatalyst 360° —the award-winning global media digest; 360° Nation Studios —dedicated to reaching across the world in an effort to capture, produce, and deliver positive, uplifting messages via blockbuster global events, and; GoodWorks 360° —a pro-bono consulting foundation focused entirely on providing mission-critical advisory services to nonprofits worldwide. Collaborating with his Chief Inspiration Officer (and wife), Ali, everything they do is "for-good" vs. "for profit". Their mission over the past decade-plus has been to rediscover humanity at its best, influencing and showcasing it every step of the way. Together, they do their very best to figure out what the world is trying to be —then using all their resources to help it to be better every day in every way. They understand and embrace the notion that it’s not about me or you; it’s about caring for the people we serve and more responsibly stewarding the precious resources in our care. And they believe it’s about showing up, being present, and intentionally giving our invaluable gifts of time, talent, and treasure "for good". Dennis is a contributing author to these Best-Selling Books ♦ Chaos to Clarity: Sacred Stories of Transformational ChangeJourney Well, You Are More Than EnoughThe Four-Fold Formula For All Things Wellness: True Stories of the Heart, Spirit, Mind, and Body Voices of Strength Win the Wellness W.A.R. We Are Responsible

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  1. Dennis,
    I agree with your premise about dialogue. What I worry about often goes to the heart of motivation. If and when we can be motivated by fostering courageous conversations I believe we can find and appreciate getting an understanding. Conversations should have a level of intelligence, led by our foundational values and understanding, that can come from asking powerful questions. If we don’t then those imperfect gifts that we all possess start to lead with no guidepost of authenticity, no self-compassion, or calmness. Just a lot of noise!

    • Grateful for your added insights here, Phil. Precisely the formula for us all to apply as we continue to effect (positive) ripples of change via Salon 360°, AND across all avenues of our daily life …

  2. I appreciate Byron’s comment about the difference between compromise and capitulation as a great way to think about the difference between debate and dialogue. Winners and losers or thinkers and collaborators?

    I had a conversation recently with one of my favorite neuroscience geeks (thank you, Paul!) about tribalism and belonging to community. It’s been rattling around my brain a bit. We can seek to understand and acknowledge our differences through dialogue (and I’d add there is a place for healthy debate here). But dialogue and respect – by definition – are based upon reciprocity. It doesn’t matter how long and loudly I make my position known if there is no one on the other side to receive it and vice versa. We can listen to understand another’s point of view but it’s not a respectful dialogue unless and until the other shares the same commitment for understanding. As you’ve put it so eloquently, Dennis, it is this mutual feeling of understanding that moves us forward. Without that mutual feeling of understanding – and respect – we can choose opt out of that tribe or live superficially within it, but it will never reward us with growth and fulfillment. Sometimes, the most important understanding is recognizing that the disparity in values is so great that conversational turn-taking will never reach the level of meaningful dialogue.

    This notion that we can all grow through these difficult conversations only works if everyone comes to the table with the intention of growing. Introspection. Open-mindedness. Humility. Self-actualization. We are wired to connect with others. Ultimately, people gravitate toward the table of people who share their values. Those values can be forward-focused on inclusivity, personal growth and the potential of being/doing better or on an exclusive preservation of the status quo. I can listen to someone’s position for awhile — really LISTEN to understand. But at a certain point, if there is no reciprocity, then it’s only a matter of time before we end up at different tables.

    I’ve been “uninvited” from a few tables and kicked out of a few tribes. And that’s okay.

    • Quite frankly, you couldn’t have captured the “essence” of what I mean by the “magic of (real) dialogue”, Melissa. And with the right balance of intellectual curiosity, honesty, respect, and deep listening, it’s amazing just how much closer a relationship can become despite differences of opinion. On the other hand, it’s equally surprising just how many relationships collapse under the weight of steadfast disagreement with one side or the other simply unwilling to accept any position inconsistent with theirs. I’ve personally witnessed this over the past year+ when we’ve all been faced with controversies in the headlines and beyond (e.g. George Floyd, Police Defunding, Presidential election/politics, Vaxers vs. Non-Vaxers, etc., etc.) during which the opportunity for reasonable discussion has simply left the arena, leaving families divided, friendships collapsed, and so forth. A sad commentary on our times. But not without hope, provided people are prepared to cast aside ego and self in favor of good-faith and goodwill restored. Thanks for stepping up here, my friend.

  3. Dennis, thank you for a great thought provoking article.
    It seems that given todays political climate we are reluctant to have a honest dialogue with people who may have a different opinion than ours. I think that there are times when we listen to someone’s opinion who is different than ours through fogged glasses. I know that I have at times been guilty of that.
    My hope is that we can have honest dialogue/debate with each other, to honestly listen to a different point of view and then respond in a way that is respectful to that individual without being argumentative!

    • Reluctant indeed, Tom. And it’s (unfortunately) so much easier to step back versus lean into such dialogue with curiosity and a willingness to explore & understand. It all seems to come down to fear and a threat to our existence. We don’t want to say things that people will disagree with. When they do, it makes us uncomfortable, uneasy, and wondering whether our position is truly correct. This leads to questioning ourselves and more uncertainty creeps in. This makes us less willing to share our perspectives because we start to shrink from confrontations. This isolates us.

      Or, on the other hand, we become more and more confrontational and don’t care what the other person thinks. We become combative, because we fear that things are spiraling out of control, and we are trying to fix them. Since nobody shares my opinion, I intensify my efforts to make sure that everyone knows what I think, and that they should believe the same way. When they don’t, it isolates us.

      The well-balanced adult is one who can thoughtfully consider issues and not react, but rather, internalize it and deal with it in a healthy manner. S/he realizes that the issue doesn’t define them and doesn’t threaten them. They realize also that their viewpoint, when presented rationally and respectfully, can lend a valuable insight to the issue at hand. Then others can do likewise. Only then will we see meaningful change in society.

      Appreciate your perspectives here…

    • Tom, your comment made me wonder what it is about us or/and the other person that stops the listening?
      I know that whenever somebody says “but in reality…” or words to that effect – making their statement a universal TRUTH – I have a contrarian reaction of “who are YOU to decide what the truth is?” But it can also be tone of voice or certain phrases that seem to announce that this is a monologue dressed up as conversation.
      Do you notice any cues for what makes your hearing glasses fog up?

  4. Oh, that was so good, Dennis. It’s important to note that at the highest levels of interaction among corporations and governments, the term ‘sensemaking’ is being touted as the next evo-leap in creating collaborative cohorts, organizations and sustainable operations. Otto Scharmer and MIT had a series of classes/workshops a few years ago called, Transforming Business, Society and Self, based on models of co-sensing and co-presencing in ‘prototyping’ new models of interaction across industry and society. An amazing 32,000 students were involved worldwide. The movement is continuing, slowly gaining momentum.

  5. The need for real dialogue cannot be overstated. Too many people out there have taken up intractable positions based on their political leanings. They choose only to have a dialogue with people who share their beliefs, and in so doing, refuse to open their minds to other points of view. And I believe that this has become universal. Which of course makes it much more challenging. I actually don’t comment much on the posts I read here, mainly because I agree with most of what’s being said. Mindsets have always been hard to penetrate and open up. I like to th8ink that everybody here would lobve nothing more than to hear from people with different points of view.

    • Right on target here, Jim. Just imagine how doors could be opened with (real) open minds, my friend. We will persevere thanks to folks like you who have the courage to share your unbridled perspectives as a means of stirring thoughtful engagement.

  6. As I read this, Dennis, I remembered a debate class I took in college way back in the twentieth century. It was one of the more interesting classes I ever took, simply because up to that point—I was 18 at the time—it had never occurred to me that there’s a difference between compromise and capitulation. I hope I’ve learned over the years that there is.

    See you Thursday.


    • Such a fundamental distinction here, Byron – and one that far too many folks don’t realize. Once discovered, it’s amazing how many more constructive discussions can be had, where disagreement doesn’t mean disagreeable. Thanks for sharing!