Do You Have a Company Culture of Debate or Dialogue?

Photo by Beth Macdonald on Unsplash
  1. Pay attention to the feeling. Debate and dialogue feel different. If you feel the competition and lots of discomfort in the conversation, you are probably debating. If you have a feeling of belonging and being inspired, you are probably in a dialogue.
  2. A debate closes the scope of potential. A dialogue opens the field of potential.
  3. A debate focuses on separation and uses opposition to highlight differences; it is exclusive. Dialogue tends towards connection and uses inclusion to build on differences.
  4. Debate sees diversity (of culture, communication style, personalities, language, gender etc.. ) as a challenge. Dialogue sees diversity as a richness.
  5. Debate highlights individual performance. Dialogue highlights collective performance.
  6. Debating is like playing chess or tennis. There must be a winner and a loser at the end. Dialoging is like playing rugby with your own team; it is about winning together.
  7. In a debate, you speak when you are already confident. In a dialogue, you get more confident the more you speak.
  8. In a debate, we look for each other´s weak points. In a dialogue, we look for each other´s strengths.
  9. Sometimes a debate is disguised in a heated discussion. Sometimes the dialogue is disguised in a friendly conversation.
  10. Debate develops the art of talking. Dialogue enhances the art of listening.

And how do you foster a culture of dialogue if this is what you want and what you need?

Here are just a few ideas. There are probably many more:

  • Explore where the debate culture might have become “normal” in the organisation and search for the reason. There might be a good reason behind it. It is good to know.
  • Be aware of the communication culture you now want and make it explicit. Talk about it and say why you think it is useful. Maybe more useful than the old way.
  • Keep in mind what culture you want to establish and stop the conversation gently but firmly when it goes in the other direction.
  • Pay attention to the feeling. Your feeling is your guide. If it feels good, you are probably on the right track.
  • Give people who have introvert habits and everybody else more space to think. Allow for moments of silence in the conversation.
  • Cultivate the art of listening.
  • Bring back, everywhere it is possible, the good habit of Synthesis that usually comes after the polarity in the practice of dialectic.
  • Use facilitation techniques (there are plenty) but please, don´t rely solely on techniques. Your posture, your presence, and your common sense are the energy that should drive any method you may want to use.
  • Practice as often as possible until it becomes a new habit and a new culture.



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Drissia Schroeder-Hohenwarth

Transformative Coach for Leaders, Teams and Organisations with a fascination for the endless potential of the mind. Check on: