People in conversation

Distinguishing Debate from Dialogue

It's a question we hear over and over: how is debate different from dialogue?

Debate is necessary and good! It's appropriate to advocate and debate, to make the case for the views and values you hold.

However, debate can also sharpen a conflict, driving dysfunction and polarization. Dialogue can rebuild trust and deepen understanding while holding the space for our differences.

This table contrasts some of the characteristics of debate—think of the Presidential debates, for example—with the kind of engagement we aim to promote through the Essential Partners approach.