Women's Interfaith Conference

Interfaith Dialogue:          

 What a Dialogue is and what it is not

A dialogue is not a debate, where points are scored and one side wins. Those who participate seek, not to convert or persuade or instruct their opposite members, but simply to get to know them well and to understand and accept them in the fullness of their differences. They are willing to reveal their true feelings and views, to give a hearing to the ideas of others, and to air disagreements frankly and fairly. 

In a successful dialogue, a great deal is learned, but not so much through exchange of information as through the growth of personal relationships.

Opinions changes, if any, will come spontaneously out of the dialogue, not from lecturing or disputation.


  1. Make it your business to know your own beliefs.
  2. Do all you can to understand the viewpoint of the people on the other side.
  3. Assume that the others are speaking in good faith. Interpret their beliefs and attitudes in the best possible light, not the worst.
  4. Frankly face issues that divide the two sides. Try to understand them; don't pretend they don't exist.
  5. Keep an open mind;don't let your ideas about the other side get frozen at any point.
  6. Within the limits of relevance, let the discussion go where it needs to go. Don't try to decide in advance just where should it lead.

    Another sound rule is: Don't claim too much for your own views. A great many things in religious attitude and practices are matters of personal choice. An acknowledgement that  "I believe such-and-so, but some of my co-religionists probably won't agree" can save much time that would otherwise be spent in internal squabbles.

    Ignorance, frankly acknowledged, is no disgrace. No one has all the answers. What you don't know, some one else in the group may;what no one present knows can be looked up and reported at the next session.

     Finally, an important reminder for everyone. Don't let your enthusiasm betray you into monopolizing the conversation.


Dialogue is collaborative: two or more sides work together towards common understanding.

            Debate is oppositional: two sides oppose each other and attempt to prove each other wrong.

In dialogue, finding common ground is the goal.

                 In debate, winning is the goal.

In dialogue, one listens to the other's side(s) in order to understand, find meaning, and find agreement.

                  In debate, one listens to the other side in order to find flaws and to counter its argument. 

Dialogue enlarges and possibly change a participant's point of view.

                  Debate affirms a participant's own point of view.

Dialogue causes introspection on one's own position. 

                 Debate causes critique of the other position.

Dialogue opens the possibility of reaching a batter solution than any of the original solutions.

                 Debate defends ones own positions as the best solution and exclude other solutions

Dialogue creates an open-minded attitude: an openness to being wrong and an openness to change.

                 Debate creates a close-minded attitude: close to being wrong or to change.

In dialogue, one submits one's best thinking, knowing that the other people's reflections will help improve it rather than destroy it.

                     In debate, one submits one's best thinking and defends it against challenges to show that it is right.

Dialogue calls for temporarily suspending one's belief.

                       Debate calls for investing wholeheartedly in one's beliefs.

In Dialogue , one searches for a basic agreements.

                        In debate, one searches for glaring differences.

In dialogue, one searches for strength in  the other positions.

                        In debate, one searches for flows and weaknesses in the other position. 

Dialogue involves a real concern for the other person and seek to not alienate or offend.

                        Debate involves a countering of the other position without focusing on feelings on feeling or relationship and often belittles or      

       deprecates the other person.

Dialogue assumes that many people have pieces of the answer and that together they can put them into a workable solution.

                         Debate assumes that here is a right answer and that someone has it.

Dialogue remains open-ended.

                        Debate implies a conclusion.