Imagine if political debate were political dialog instead? What would the world be like?
Debate is a form of discussion where opposing arguments for a specific topic are put forward. The intention might often be to convince someone that my view or proposal is right whilst yours is wrong. Hence, the debate often escalates into endless loops of justification and blaming, with no true winner insight. Best case, the debate may result into what we often with a sense of pride call “compromise”. Is compromise always a satisfactory outcome? Have you ever been satisfied when compromising? The American poet James Russel Lowell quotes: “Compromise makes a good umbrella, but a poor roof; it is a temporary expedient, often wise in party politics, almost sure to be unwise in statesmanship”.
Let us be truthful with ourselves. Compromise is neither a satisfactory nor a sustainable solution. The bestselling author Stephen Covey displays compromise as: “1 + 1 = 1,5”.
When a person looks from the stage of a theatre into the auditorium, she will have a different view than a person looking from the auditorium towards the stage. Whose view is right, whose view is wrong? Well, based on each person’s point of view or angle, each person is right you may conclude.
Exactly! Now combine the two views and you will receive a more complete picture. That’s pretty obvious you may say, but the reality of our behaviour often tells a different story.
In reality, we often end up in a debate of who’s view is right or wrong, where the debating parties are likely to get stuck in a never ending match of defending their view, supported by justifying and emphasizing ones view whilst blaming and attacking the other for “not seeing things clearly”. A typical null-sum-game costing both energy and time, often leading nowhere except towards a state of frustration, agony and pain on both sides.
You have surely started to sense that this scenario is in no way limited to politics and I and most certainly, you have experienced it in your own and in others behavior.
We always have the opportunity to enter into a dialogue, leading towards a deeper understanding of each other’s view-points, opinions or goals. When we “let down our guard and open up to each-other”, it can bring new insights on both sides which at the end may not lead to just your way or my way but towards a much better solution which is “enriched“ by putting your views together. The picture as stated above in the theatre example will become more complete, the solution becomes sustainable and not just a “temporary umbrella”.
Obviously, it is difficult to nearly impossible to change the behaviour of politicians, corporate leaders or the many people we deal with in our daily lives – we can however work towards transforming our own mindset, behaviours and actions and as we do, our environment will adapt to the behaviour they experience in us. We become a transformation agent towards a better world.
So, what can you do concretely in order to nurture a dialogue culture in yourself and by doing this, to be a transformation agent for your environment?
be clear and truthful about the motivation behind your words and actions – what is the higher cause, what is this really about?
be willing to “let down your guard”, by letting go of any (hidden) agenda. Instead dare to be fully open, transparent and vulnerable
make an effort to “fully understand the others viewpoint” by listening attentively and asking open curious questions.
agree to place “consensus orientation over self-interest” and strive to maintain an including attitude.
pause and take time to “reflect over the full picture before you respond” and always respond in an appreciative and encompassing manner.
“initiate a dialogue culture” which aims at achieving a higher goal. A goal or solution which is greater than what each person/party initially had in mind.
Continue to observe your behaviour and actions with open curiosity and compassion and if you fall short, pause, be patient and adjust your approach.
Rather than “bumping heads” let us make an attempt to “put our minds together” for the wellbeing of all and towards a world worth living in.
If you say “all this is nice, but life cannot be without conflict”, then you have missed the whole point, be patient with yourself and keep trying!