Discussions vary according to time, circumstance, and people, but universally, they are social activities. Our democratic society favors direct participation due to our national concepts of equality, reasoned thinking, deliberation, and orderly processes. A discussion is not a debate, a monologue, or a conversation. It is a cooperative effort in which group members help others study a problem, so there are no winners or losers. It is an interchange with purpose and reason, not a casual conversation. It is systematic in that a steady progression toward a goal takes place. It is creative when people react to opinions and various turns in the discussion. It requires participation through listening and speaking. It calls for leadership so that discussion stays focused, but encourages full expression of viewpoints. Discussion, well-conducted, is a superior way to study a problem.
Discussion calls for reflective thinkingóweighing pros and cons, considering alternatives, using logic, considering consequences of possible actions. Groups try to understand the problem and act with a common purpose in solving it. When understanding is the object, participants correct others' thinking or information errors, and all understand that this is for the common good of dealing with the problem.
Problem-solving answers the question "How." In problem-solving discussions, groups seek answers to conflicts or problems facing them. They discuss facts relevant to stated problems and discuss pros and cons of various solutions. Problem-solving discussions truly benefit from many points of view, so fostering a free exchange of ideas is vital. Groups seek ways to correct bad situations, improve current situations, or resolve conflicts between situations or people through discussion. This allows all to hear what others see as workable solutions to problems, PLUS the probable consequences of solutions.