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Pluralism | Debate versus Dialogue

Updated: Jan 17, 2020

The term pluralism hold a lot of grit in a country such as India. For that matter, India is by far the most plural as well as unique in terms of existence of states, groups, principles, sources of authority, etc. This plural nature is in some ways the true identity of our nation.

In such an ideologically diverse scenario, a dialogue between people is necessary for dissemination. But instead we often pin our hopes on a debate. Now, a dialogue and a debate have their own differences, such as

Polarizing or Collaborating

Debate is competitive and or oppositional, two or more opposing sides try to prove each other wrong. Dialogue is collaborative, cooperative, multiple sides work toward a shared understanding.

Counter or Listen

In debate one listens to find flaws, to spot differences, and to counter arguments. In dialogue, one listens to understand, to make meaning and to find common ground.

Closed or Open

Debate creates a close-minded attitude, a determination to be right. Dialogue creates an open-minded attitude, an openness to being wrong and an openness to change.

Defend or Reflect

In debate one submits one’s best thinking and defends it against challenge to show that it is right. In dialogue, one submits ones best thinking, expecting that other people’s reflections will help improve it rather than threaten it.

Invest or Suspend

Debate calls for investing wholeheartedly in one’s beliefs.

Dialogue calls for temporarily suspending of one’s beliefs.

Belittle or Respect

Debate rebuts contrary positions and may belittle or deprecate other participants. Dialogue respects all the other participants and seeks not to alienate or offend.

One or Many

Debate assumes a single right answer that somebody already has. Dialogue assumes that many people have pieces of answers and that cooperation can lead to a greater understanding.

Winning or Common ground

In debate winning is the goal. In dialogue, finding common ground is the goal.

Critique or Introspect

Debate causes critique of the other position. Dialogue causes introspection on one’s own position.

Own or Other

Debate defends ones own position as the best solution and excludes other solutions. Dialogue opens the possibility of reaching a better solution than any of the original solutions.

Conclusion or Open-end

Debate demands a conclusion. Dialogue remains open-ended.

Flaws or Strengths

In debate one searches for flaws and weaknesses in the other position. In dialogue, one searches for strengths in the other positions.

Disapprove or Concern

Debate involves a countering of the other position without focusing on feelings or relationship and of the belittles or deprecates the other person. Dialogue involves a real concern for the other person and seeks to not alienate or offend.

Overall the point that stands, is that, in a country as plural as ours, dialogue is necessary.

Latterly i had read a column called The idea of India. Even though it was written more than a decade ago, i ended up reading it now. And it had a very clear and detailed picture of how all of us, collectively are actually minorities. It had the meaning of how India is a vibrant land of pluralism.


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