Why Knowing The Difference Between A Discussion And A Dialogue Matters.

My wife and I were in the hospital expecting our first son. Judah was taking his sweet time in coming. 23 ½ hours into labor we were getting close to finally meeting our son. I was so excited I almost forgot to keep breathing and just about passed out!


The doctor had me count out loud to help Anna focus. (or to keep me from hitting the deck:)

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6….10. Every time I would count to ten between my wife's pushing I got louder and louder until I was finally SHOUTING. She was quite preoccupied so I'm still alive to tell the story.

I had no idea I was yelling. I had so much adrenaline coursing through my body. I was so caught up in the moment. The doctor later told me that I was the loudest father he had ever worked with in 25 years of delivering babies!

Sometimes we handle our conversations with others the way I handled counting in the delivery room.

That’s a ridiculously extreme example but it’s true.

We keep getting louder and louder. We are so caught up in the moment that there is no chance for the other person to respond.

Instead of talking WITH someone we end up talking AT someone. 

heated-discussionI know from experience how easy it is to become a “teller” instead of a “discerning dialoguer.” Being a preacher I have to be very careful with this!

Talking AT people can be very damaging to any kind of relationship whether it’s work, family or romantic. It may seem like I’m splitting hairs between these two words but I’m not. They are light years apart from each other.

Check out how well Kris Vallotton expressed it in his book Fashioned to Reign: Empowering Women To Fulfill Their Divine Destiny:

A dialogue is an exchange of ideas in which people interact to gain understanding. A discussion is a conversation in which the goal is to defend your position. The word “dialogue” is formed by the two Greek words “dia” and “logos”, which can literally be interpreted as a two-way flow or exchange of meaning. The word “discussion”, on the other hand, comes from the Latin word “discutere”, which means “strike asunder, break up.”

The next time you find yourself leading or engaged in a seemingly one-way, lop-sided conversation, try asking yourself the question, “Is this a discussion or a dialogue?” “Do I care what the other person has to say or am I only interested in offering up my perspective?”

Talking WITH someone is so much better than talking AT someone.

 LEADERSHIP TIP: (Especially for people who facilitate and lead meetings)

 Many times when leaders speak to quickly other team members refrain from sharing their thoughts (often really powerful ideas) especially if they are coming from a differing perspective. So often I have to find myself counting in those moments…not yelling 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6…10 like in the delivery room but I have to count to three before I speak. I want to make sure that at least three people share their ideas before I chime in with my “words of wisdom.”

 Maybe you’re like me and you find it a lot easier to talk than to listen. There’s nothing wrong with that BUT I’m convinced you will go further, faster if you learn the difference between a discussion and a dialogue!