The Power of Deliberation: Building Strong Relationships through Conversation

In celebration of National Week of Conversation, I want to encourage each of us to improve the tone and quality of our interactions with others.  In our current society, it’s not uncommon to see people engaging in heated debates about various topics, ranging from politics to religion and everything in between. While debates may seem like a good way to defend one’s beliefs, they can also be detrimental to building strong relationships. Instead, deliberation is a much more effective approach to conversation when it comes to relationship building.

So, what exactly is the difference between debate and deliberation? Debates are typically confrontational and competitive. The goal is to prove your point and convince others that you are right. On the other hand, deliberation is a collaborative process that involves listening to others and seeking to understand their perspectives. The goal is to reach a shared understanding and find common ground.

Ready to give it a try?  Consider these ideas:

  • Listen actively and empathetically.  One of the most important aspects of deliberation is active listening. This means being fully present in the conversation and focusing on what the other person is saying. It also involves empathizing with the other person and trying to understand their perspective, even if you don’t necessarily agree with it. When you listen actively and empathetically, you create a safe space for the other person to share their thoughts and feelings, which can lead to a deeper connection.
  • Ask open-ended questions.  Another way to facilitate deliberation is by asking open-ended questions. These are questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no, and instead, require the other person to share more about their thoughts and feelings. Open-ended questions show that you are genuinely interested in the other person’s perspective and help to move the conversation forward. They can also help to uncover common ground and shared values.
  • Acknowledge and respect differences.  It’s important to remember that deliberation doesn’t mean that everyone has to agree with each other. In fact, acknowledging and respecting differences is a key part of the process. When you acknowledge and respect differences, you show that you value the other person’s perspective, even if you don’t agree with it. This can lead to a deeper understanding and appreciation of each other’s views.

So, don’t debate… deliberate!  By actively listening, asking open-ended questions, and acknowledging and respecting differences, you can create a safe space for meaningful dialogue that leads to a shared understanding and deeper connection. The next time you find yourself in a conversation, remember the power of deliberation and give it a try. You might be surprised at the positive impact it can have on your relationships.

Happy Networking!

P.S. – A fabulous organization I’m involved with that effectively teaches this concept is American Public Square at Jewell.  Its mission is to convene non-like-minded people to improve the tone and quality of civil discourse and find actionable paths toward common ground.  Learn more about American Public Square at

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