Today’s Solutions: January 28, 2023

We should stop debating


Macro Visscher | March 2006

WHAT’S WRONG WITH DEBATING?
Thomas Benedict: “In a debate, reason is misused in order to defeat the other person. Literally. Just look at the origin of the word. De is ‘to the utmost’; bat is ‘beat.’ You see it in words like battle and combat.”

ISN’T A DEBATE JUST A WAY OF EXCHANGING OPINIONS?
“It is more a way of proving you’re right than finding out what’s right. In a debate you fight your opponent in order to confirm your own rightness. That means you’re no longer listening to the other person—or if you are, it’s only in order to bring him down. You become tense, go on the counterattack, close yourself off. You stop being open to looking critically at your own opinions and insights, because you are afraid of losing. I believe that a lot of wisdom is lost because of the debate form.”

SO WHAT’S A BETTER FORM?
“Dialogue is a much more constructive and instructive way of exchanging opinions. A dialogue can bring you a step further, because you go looking for an acceptable answer. It’s a form that invites you to discover new ways of seeing. A dialogue is literally a conversation between two people, in which logos, meaning, flows through, dia.”

WHAT DOES A DIALOGUE DEMAND OF PARTICIPANTS?
“A dialogue demands that you have the courage to expose your opinions and perceptions to criticism, and the willingness to let go of your positions. In a dialogue, you have to accept that sometimes you’re wrong, that the other person can sometimes be right—that one person can’t know everything.”

Thomas Benedict is the founder and director of the Dutch training and communications agency InContext.

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