Dialogue and debate: two ways of communicating
Key statement: You can fight to win and one of you wins, or you can work together to win and both of you win.
In order to advance from storming to norming, conflict needs to be successfully navigated: from ‘you vs me’ to ‘us vs the problem’.
A useful way of framing this is to differentiate between ‘debate’ and ‘dialogue’, illustrated above.
The way you communicate with your team will determine the ways athletes communicate with each other and with you as the coach, and will help establish the culture of the team.
While there are more than two ways to communicate, many coaches have either a debate or dialogue mindset.
A debate mindset tends to see communication as a one-way process. The coach tells athletes what they know and defends their own point of view. The aim of debate is to win and so debaters will work towards convincing others of their point or argument and tend not to budge in their thinking.
A dialogue mindset sees communication as a two-way process: listening to others and seeking to understand others’ ideas and perspectives is just as important as talking about their own.
The coach who takes a dialogic approach doesn’t see communication as win-lose and so doesn’t feel the need to defend their own ideas or perspectives, rather they are keen to learn from others and curious about others way of thinking and being in the world.
Consider explicitly naming up the debate and dialogue mindsets and at the beginning of team meetings write this up whenever the team needs to address a sensitive topic.
|Prove a point||listen|
|Persuade, tell, sell||learn through disclosure|
|Distinctions and differences||connections and relationships|
|Break problems into parts||see whole that encompasses the parts|
|Choose one meaning amongst many||create shared meaning among many|
Ask team members to monitor the conversation and do what they can to ensure it remains in ‘dialogue’ mode, which gives the best chance of successfully navigating conflict. This happens naturally in ‘performing’ teams.
Do you tend to have a debate or dialogue mindset? Where specifically might you be stuck in a debate mindset and what would the corresponding and more effective dialogue mindset be?
As coach, in communication with your team, where is your immediate growth point?
If you’re interested in learning more about types of conversation, these resources might be of interest:
- Angel (2016), The Four Types of Conversations: Debate, Dialogue, Discourse, and Diatribe
- Straker (n.d.) Types of Conversation
Belden-Charles, G. (2018). The 3Ds: Debate, discussion, dialogue. Minnesota Women’s Press. Retrieved March 26, 2018 from http://womenspress.com/Content/Features/Features/Article/The-3-Ds-Debate-Discussion-Dialogue/1/1/3463
Angel, DW 2016, ‘The Four Types of Conversations: Debate, Dialogue, Discourse, and Diatribe’, Medium, accessed March 122, 2018, from https://medium.com/@DavidWAngel/the-four-types-of-conversations-debate-dialogue-discourse-and-diatribe-898d19eccc0a.
Straker D., (n.d), ‘Types of Conversation’, changingminds.org, accessed March 14, 2018, from http://changingminds.org/techniques/conversation/types/types.htm.
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