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Why are people afraid of dialogue or debate?

I've always been a thoughtful person. Not to say that I'm always 'right' but I can safely say that any view I hold is held after much consideration of other options. In fact many times when I first hear of a concept or train of thought I pause to consider other options.

I've always seen debate as a useful tool for people to come to understanding and many times agreement about what they are REALLY saying. Many well intentioned people are able to say things that at the heart they truly do not mean. In organizations the lack of debate is one reason 'group think' takes over and the group makes bad decisions.

Among our leadership team I've found that some healthy Q&A or discussion has lead to a refined approach when taking the topic to the public or even other times when the debate lead us to shut down an idea.

In the world I've lived in during the last few months I've seen less and less debate. It seems to me that the words "unity" and "debate" have become mutually exclusive. You can no longer have unity IN debate. Debate or dialogue has been frowned upon and I'm not certain as to why. Granted foolish debate (when one or both parties is simply trying to 'win') is never healthy but debate among two people or positions over the substance of their thoughts isn't a bad thing.

In government we have the separation of powers, a representative government and every single one of the Bill of Rights because of healthy debate.

My best guess as to why there is so little healthy debate is that people haven't seen debate as ever being healthy. The practice put before most kids is a power trip. Yelling, screaming and throwing things is not healthy debate. Standing up for an issue and discussing many levels of reasoning is however very healthy.

We need to practice healthy debate. We need not silence every voice that disagrees. As long as the parties are not showboating or just trying to 'win' then there is room for all parties to grow and come to a better understanding. At the end of the day even if you don't agree you should at least be able to understand a few layers behind the opposing view's argument. Most people have a very shallow opinion that is lifted up as if it's the supreme law of the land.

Within Christianity we hold these opinions up as if they came directly from the Lord. Position papers and denominational votes hold equal weight with scripture in so many cases and if you don't agree with the status quo there is very little room to have your voice heard. We shouldn't silence debate and discussion. As long as there is a civil discourse between two reasonable and thoughtful people we will gain from the exchange of ideas.

posted by Tally Wilgis @ Thursday, November 16, 2006


At 12:03 PM, Anonymous Chris Marlow said...

Sometimes I wonder why we struggle in this area, can we not learn more if we are willing to debate others who have a different of opinions, are we too scared to live in that tension?

Why does everything have to be and either-or?

Of course from a Christian perspective, much of what we believe falls under the "absolutes." Therefore we do not want to debate those categories.

The problem then is who defines what goes under the categories of absolute?

At 11:54 PM, Anonymous Robert Pooley said...

One of the things that I see recurring in Patrick Lencioni's books, the five dysfunctions of a team, Death by meeting, etc is the neccessity of conflict. You will see healthy debate as a part of a good organization.


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