Day 18 – the art of dialogue

Pondering the present decline of civility and respect in public discourse has made head-line news around the world. Canadians are stereo-typed as being ‘nice’, but we have our share of belligerent loud-mouths. Our political campaigns degenerate into mindless attack ads aimed at the opposing party or candidate. Our parliamentary debates morph into a playing field of scrimmages and name-calling. It’s tiresome, unproductive, and leads to wide-spread voter apathy. The recent tragedy in Arizona has forced us all to wonder if there is a connection between the violent tone in our discourse and the increase of violence in society. Where is the art of dialogue in today’s world?

As with any religion, Catholics have our passionate souls on both sides of the ideological divide of conservatism and liberalism.  Too often, the most passionate voices make the most noise. An even louder noise comes from outside the church.  Any mention of the Catholic Church in a news story is taken as an invitation for an anti-church rant. It’s hard to think, and even harder to be heard amid the shouting. We need passion, but it must go hand in hand with compassion for the other.

It’s a major challenge to bring the art of dialogue out of a Utopian dream world and into daily practice. It’s much easier to talk about dialogue (like I’m doing now) than it is to DO dialogue. How do you maintain a respectful dialogue with someone who wants to debate?  Is it naive to think that dialogue is not only possible, but preferable to debate? Is there a time when a rip-roaring, gloves-off debate is not only needed but necessary?

4 thoughts on “Day 18 – the art of dialogue

  1. I don’t even mind debate when it is civil. In school you learn to debate an issue from either side. What you are doing is lining up the facts to make your point. In the process of LISTENING to the other side, you respond with facts and logic–not name-calling, exaggeration, sarcasm, and acrimony!

    I think the main difference between the two is that in debate, speakers are focused on articulating a “position” and influencing listeners to their “side.” The speakers stand their ground and want to “win” the argument.

    In dialogue, speakers are trying to understand an issue, and are open to adopting someone else’s ideas as their own. The speakers are not wedded to a “position” and the exchange does not feel like a competition. The point is simply deeper understanding.

    Anyway, that is the thinking that your blog sparked for me this morning. It certainly helped me think more deeply about debate vs. dialogue. Thanks for the interesting jump-start to my day!

    1. What a clear, concise description of the difference between dialogue and debate. It sounds like it`s coming from a rational, thoughtful and logical mind. 😉 Thank you for adding to the thinking, Marceta!

  2. “When you listen generously to people they can hear the truth in themselves, often for the first time.”
    Rachel Naomi Remen

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