A lot of arguments can easily be avoided if we start a discussion with the idea of creating a dialogue and not a debate. However, in this age of instant communication, it isn’t easy to follow that diktat.
The Oxford Dictionary defines a ‘dialogue’ as “a discussion between two or more people or groups, especially one directed towards exploration of a particular subject or resolution of a problem” while a debate is “a formal discussion on a particular matter in a public meeting or legislative assembly, in which opposing arguments are put forward and which usually ends with a vote“.
Considering the two definitions together, one can see why a dialogue is better than a debate during discussions. A debate focuses on opposing arguments – on proving that one side is right. There is one, clear, winner in a debate. A dialogue, however, focuses on hearing viewpoints – on resolving the issue at hand. So, in a dialogue, both parties are winners, since the point of a discussion is, well, talking about the topic.
The debate vs. dialogue issue is further complicated online. As an avid user of Facebook and a person having an opinion on almost everything, I have been witness to a lot of ‘discussions’ on sensitive issues. They range from politics, to society, to culture, etc. More often than not, someone starts attacking you immediately when you say something that doesn’t fit within their viewpoint. They rarely have a rational, well-thought-out, and well-researched discussion that is fruitful to everyone. Online arguments not only create an unsafe environment for those who might have a differing opinion, but also create friction in real life (when you meet the other person next).
A lot of people I know have said, “Forget it man, it’s the net. Who cares?” To those people, and others who think the same, I ask – have you heard of online/cyber bullying? Because, attacking someone is the very definition of cyber bullying [reference: this and this]. Both websites show cyber-bullying’s harmful effect.
A differing opinion isn’t a bad thing. In fact, when you listen to someone with an opposing viewpoint, you gain a better understanding of the issues. Even if you’re correct and the other person is wrong, it shouldn’t give you a licence to be rude or humiliate them. Keep the sass for your cocktail parties, not in discussions/dialogues.
Served with a pinch of salt and a hint of lemon by,