One approaches a topic from different positions through a debate or a conversation.
With a debate, each side takes a stand and attempts to defend it. The objective of a debate is to win. That essentially means to lose less ground than the opposing side. The person who has not changed their mind, while getting his or her opponent to do so, wins the debate.
A debate, like war, presupposes scarcity. It assumes that there isn’t room enough on a topic for both sides to be right – the aim is to grab more of a limited pie for one’s own self. In a debate, as in a war, the person who wins is the one who loses lesser. To change one’s mind, or in other words, to learn something new, is to lose a debate.
The objective in a conversation is to understand other points of view as well as one’s own. A conversation is an open exploration of the common ground between several opposing views. It aims to learn more as a collective. A conversation is born out of a posture of abundance. It acknowledges the pie of learning to be vast, and therefore, to have enough room for views that seem contradictory.
A chief distinction between the two is entertainment value. Good conversations are thrilling for their participants, but make for bad prime time entertainment. Debates are sensational. They can make for excellent gladiatorial showdowns. Public debate competitions abound, and more than one Hollywood film has ridden the waves of a glorious debate.
However, every debate is a finite game, and finite games need to simulate scarcity. Just as a football game is played in 90 minutes on fields of specific dimensions, with fixed rules, to obtain a definite result.
The more one learns, the more he is aware of his own ignorance, and of the sheer abundance to be discovered – one where there is enough room for viewpoints that are radically different from one’s own. Viewpoints to be discovered through conversations in playgrounds that do not resemble battlefields.
Inspiration: How to talk to people about things – You Are Not So Smart Podcast