Animating Democracy’s understanding of dialogue derives from the Study Circles Resource Center: Two or more parties with differing viewpoints working toward common understanding in an open-ended, face-to-face format. Dialogue is inclusive of multiple and possibly conflicting perspectives rather than promoting a single point of view. According to Daniel Yankelovich, author of The Magic of Dialogue, three qualities of dialogue distinguish it from debate or discussion. These are:

  • Dialogue allows assumptions to be brought out into the open and encourages participants to suspend judgment in order to foster understanding and break down obstacles.
  • Dialogue seeks to create equality among participants. Certain conditions can be created to even the playing field for participants with various levels of information about the issue, experience in public forums, real or perceived positions of power or authority and help build the trust and climate of safety for deep dialogue.
  • Dialogue aims for a greater understanding of others' viewpoints through empathy. In dialogue, multiple perspectives are invited to the table and encouraged to be voiced.