Dangerous forms of dialogue
Destructive confrontations in meetings
Concerned groups frequently find themselves unable to translate the social conflicts in which they are involved into effective dialogues. By reducing complex situations to single issues, or in emotional and violent outbursts, or hysterical relating of issues to individual situations, the form and quality of the dialogue become inadequate and nothing is gained from the exercise. A first danger of dialogue is to rush into premature agreement, thus obscuring the differences that are the reason for the dialogue in the first place. Other dangers include: triumphalism, relativism and syncretism.
The only useful debates are those that are based on a clear agreement on what the argument is about, and in which the opponent's arguments are heard with respect. Journalists, politicians and academics have increasingly substituted destructive confrontations for the kinds of constructive argument that can clarify the way that people think. Without agreement on the nature of the differences, debate decays into argument over the terms of the disagreement, or even into efforts to destroy the standing or reputation of the opponent.