Debate vs. Discussion: Strategies for Healthier Conversations

Amy Kobos – Health and Wellness Promoter, Fayetteville

We’re passionate about our beliefs and what we think is right or wrong.  We want to make our points clear and strong to people like our partners, co-workers, school board, and politicians. But, oftentimes, these conversations get heated. Debates aren’t always unhealthy.  Debating has purpose. It teaches individuals how to feel confident and be able to defend their ground. Debating provides us with the necessary tools to cultivate a sense of confidence.  And, we need confidence to create change.

But discussions allow us to bring more people onto our team to work together. This year, let’s focus on how we can have healthier DISCUSSIONS. Here’s how to get started:

  • Make a solution based on a teamwork approach, not an individual approach.  Ask questions.  Do not assume other people think like you.  There are always at least two sides of the story.
  • Never attack or tell someone he/she is wrong; do not judge and do not hold grudges.
  • Accept there will be compromises.
  • Show appreciation of others’ perspectives.  This is key.
  • Know that solutions are a work in progress and will need to be revisited over time.
  • Write down the different needs expressed and come up with possible strategies. Realize that there may be different solutions to solve the same problem.
  • If presenting to a stakeholder with more power, like a school board or local politician, present your concern politely, “These are our needs, and here are some solutions we came up with. What can you do to help?”  Be confident and respectful in asking these stakeholder questions.  Do not demand, manipulate, or threaten.
  • When cultivating critical thinking, confidence, and empowerment within your children, don’t forget they need to respect authority.

Discussion is more effective than debating, and everyone involved will likely feel more compelled to respect each other. It unifies, not divides. This is the healthy way.  If you want your voices to effectively be heard, you will need the help from people with whom you may disagree.  You will end up valuing these different perspectives, which bring about a coherent solution.  We should always do our best to work together, not against each other.  This is how you create effective change.