The current presidential debate season illustrates how debate contrasts with dialogue. Debates are competitive affairs, where the goal is to win and the object is to get other debaters to concede points. At the end of the day, one person “wins” the debate.
It would be wonderful if we as a society had as much facility with dialogue as we do with debate.
In contrast to debates, dialogues are collaborative and eveyone who participates wins. Rather than seeking to gain agreement, those who engage in dialogue instead are seeking a rich grasp of complex issues. The idea is to explore, rather than decide.
Ideally, after a dialogue session, the group can then transition into an ordinary deliberative meeting. The decisions that are made at this time are enriched by the dialogue that came before.
None of this is to imply that debates or ordinary discussions are not useful.
It’s just that these forms serve different purposes than dialogue.