Mad businessmen sit at table opposite one another with clenched hands dispute scream at competitor, angry millennial men rivals in confrontation yell debate over desk, negotiate loud. Rivalry concept

As the first presidential debate of 2020 disappears into our rear view mirror, I can’t resist an opportunity to newsjack, bringing you perspective regarding communication exchanges that happen between human beings.

The question is: Debate or Conversation?

Debate is about stating and defending ideas, positions, and opinions while conversation is about an exploration of these same things.  Both have a place in communication and both are critical in maintaining connection.

Which do you tend to lean into when communicating?  

Debaters tend to be seen as argumentative. They can also be seen as passionate about their beliefs and values.

Conversationalists are sometimes thought to be wordy and tedious. And, for those who balance their outbound with their inbound, they can also be considerate listeners, empathetic to others’ needs and desires.

So, when do we engage in our debate side, our conversational side? Answer: It’s not about hitting a button that says DEBATE or CONVERSE.  This is about being aware of where we prefer to connect and at a given moment during a conversation, of knowing when it’s time to engage the side of us from which we tend to shy away.

Some considerations for those of us who lean one way or the other…

For debaters:

  1. Slow down so others can answer.  Listen to the person as much as their idea or position.  You’ll learn more about them and their ideas. I like to breath, listen, and then engage as a rule.
  2. Tone is everything. Shouting and making things louder only annoys the neighbors.
  3. Empathy, a somewhat overused buzzword these days, really pays off here.  And this is critical: empathy doesn’t require agreement, just understanding your counterpoint.

For conversationalists:

  1. You’ve got the ‘being’ part down, now how about the ‘doing’? Sometimes ideation can be seen as procrastination; it may be time to move forward and do something with that idea.  Commit to movement.
  2. If you’re talking…a lot, then you’re preaching, speechifying.  It’s boring. Be curious too.
  3. Take a position.  It’s OK to voice your opinion.  Not everything needs to be a term paper.  People like conviction even if they don’t agree with it.

OK, that’s it.  Talk amongst yourselves.

If you want to consider a different way to communicate with others; whether professionally or personally, I invite you to reach out and explore the possibilities with me.  What could your next conversation be like if your approach was to focus on their agenda first? Here’s a link to start creating that discussion right now!


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