Tips & Tools for Constructive Conversations


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#1. Dialogue not Debate (Jan 2)
The word debate comes from the Old French debatre, meaning to fight or contend. In contrast, the word dialogue is from the Greek dialogos–dia meaning through and logos meaning word or reason. Dialogue seeks understanding through words. As the saying goes, a dialogue won’t produce as much heat as a debate, but it generates a lot more light.

#2. Listen for Understanding (Jan 15)
We agree to allow the expression of real feelings (in ourselves and in others) for understanding and catharsis, rather than expressing our feelings to manipulate others and deny that their feelings are legitimate. Adapted from Sample Dialogue Guidelines from How to talk to just about anyone about Israel-Palestine

#3. It’s Nice to Be Nice (Jan 29)
What do you do when you find yourself getting hooked by something a dialogue partner says–those times when you feel yourself moving from quiet dialogue to very loud debate! Try a little tenderness. Give your dialogue partner the benefit of the doubt. People often make statements out of ignorance, not prejudice. The tag line on my email signature is, “Never attribute to malice that which can just as easily be attributed to ignorance.” Assume the best in your partner. Don’t be too quick to jump to conclusions. Ask for clarification if a statement is unclear. Turn offenses into teachable moments.

#4. Opinion is Not Fact (Feb 12)
No matter how sure you are that your answers and thoughts are grounded in incontrovertible evidence, the nature of dialogue requires you to see that your perspective is subjective. Your opinion may be legitimate, even justifiable. But it is not fact. Your perspective is a point of view…