Lesson 2.4

Discourse vs Debate vs Arguing

Dive in by watching the video, followed by the key concepts and exercise below:


Key Concepts:


Discourse is an exchange of different ways of thinking.

  • It should be low pressure.

  • It should truly be about trading different ideas and points of view.

  • It involves active listening, and truly seeking to learn and understand.


Debate is about sussing out the merits of different ways of thinking.

  • Not every idea or point of view is useful, and it is okay to explore and bullet-test ideas—especially if you can keep your discussion from getting personal (more on this later!)

  • Debate works best when you’ve exchanged information and are operating from the same terminology and with a clear topic of debate.

Arguing is making a case for something, but the term “argue” often puts people on the defense.

  • Subtle changes to our vocabulary can help us have productive friction when we make an argument without putting people in a defensive place.

  • Instead of using the words “argue” or “argument,” talk in terms of thinking and theorizing when possible.

  • It’s better to abstract yourself from the ideas you’re proposing. This way if you’re proved wrong it’s easier psychologically to change your mind.

  • “My hypothesis is that…” or “My theory is that…” are better than simply “I think that.” Then, if your point ends up being wrong, you don’t have to be wrong—just your hypothesis or theory was wrong!

  • Even better: leave the door open for changing your mind in a painless way by saying, “My current hypothesis is that…”