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Techniques > Conversation > Types > Debate

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Debate is one step removed from dictation as two (and maybe more) people are now actively involved in the process. Like dictation, each person is concerned only that they are right. However now they have opposition in the form of contradictory argument from other people. Power also changes, from the ability to inflict harm to the ability to convincingly argue, with sound reasoning.


That's wrong. You haven't considered local costings. With twice the people coming through the gates we need 20% more base capital.

I cannot concede on quality issues. It is rather naive to assume it will work first time. We must include full QA.

That's a personal attack, to which I object strongly. If you can't be civil, I will not listen to your arguments.


The underlying belief about debate is that the assumption is one of is zero sum, where for one person to gain something, another must lose it. This leads to a straight fight, if not to the death, at least with little mercy. Each person takes a position, which they vigorously defend while simultaneously attacking the other person's position. Like two castles built on adjacent hills, they fire canons at one another, trying to crumble and destroy the walls of the opposing argument.

In order to differentiate themselves, the positions taken are often more extreme than each person would naturally assume. Paradoxically, this polarisation pushes them further apart, making agreement less likely. But then agreement in such fights is really just concession, as one side gives in or gives up.

The language of debate is, unsurprisingly, taken from the language of war. Defending positions, flanking moves and so on, military tactics are a rich seam of metaphor that describe and suggest the way debaters treat one another.

Sometimes debate is appropriate, when there really is a fixed pie, yet often the opportunity is missed to grow the pie so each has more. Debate is the easy, unthinking, option that forgets the social price of destroying others. Collaborative methods take more time and consideration but offer sustainable relationships and greater abundance all round.

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