Nick Gall and I have developed three modes of conversation: debate, dialogue and dialectic.
- Debate is conversing with the intention of advancing our own ideas against the other’s. This is an arguing mode of conversation.
- Dialogue is conversing with the intention of getting inside the other’s ideas and really understanding them so that multiple ideas can be compared from inside-out perspectives. This is a learning and teaching mode of conversation.
- Dialectic is conversing to instaurate new ideas that transcend and encompass existing old ideas. This is a creative mode of conversation, where ideas are iteratively proposed, developed and gently tested and improved until they are clear and coherent enough to be taught or argued.
By making conversational modes explicit ,participants in a conversation can get clear on what everyone wants the conversation to do and to avoid talking at cross purposes.
Nick suggests I mention that this not an exhaustive list. For instance, comforting a mourner or making a promise do not fall under these categories. There are myriad ways to “do things with words” but these three are helpful for creative conversations.