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A discussion is an exchange of words with others about a central issue.

We talk to one another in many ways and for many reasons. Sometimes we are simply making conversation and enjoying one another's company. Sometimes we are providing (or gathering) important information. Sometimes we are expressing our beliefs in an exchange of ideas with other people who are expressing their own beliefs. This last sort of talking together is what is meant here by discussion.

A discussion is an exchange of words with others about a central issue. A discussion has an issue at its center. That is: a discussion is about something. This may seem obvious, but it is an important truth to bear in mind. Have you ever found yourself feeling frustrated and lost in a discussion? Chances are, if you analyze such situations, you will find that at some point the participants lost track of the central issue. When this central issue is obscured by the personalities of the participants, discussions can become sidetracked, blocked, or trivialized. Without a central topic, the talking leads into tangents and techniques of sheer persuasion. So a first basic discussion skill is this:

When you enter into a discussion, try to identify what the central issue is.

This may not be easy to do. Issues, especially philosophical issues, are often complex. Many constructive discussions are really attempts to clarify the issue at hand. A discussion does not need to solve and issue or prove a point to be constructive. Increasing understanding of an issue is very constructive.

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