There’s a big difference between arguing and debating. Debating requires a certain level of decorum and eloquence to actually win. When debating, you can use the following approaches in order to strengthen your position without simply attacking your opponent’s position. Achieving greater eloquence in your words can help you succeed and get to your end goal in any in-person debate:
Acknowledge Your Opponent’s Position, Then Distinguish, Distinguish, Distinguish!
Acknowledging your opponent’s position puts them in the unfortunate position of having to acknowledge yours as well, lest they want to appear dogmatic in their approach. When you show that you understand their position, but have a different perspective based on logic and objective facts, it strengthens your argument by showing you’ve considered other ideas and settled on yours as being the strongest. The trick here is to distinguish why yours is different and how the opponent’s position fails to account for what yours takes into account. By stating how your positions differ in a way that implies your position is superior, your opponent is left to do the explaining. Remember the old adage: If you’re explaining, you’re losing. Make your opponent explain why their position is not wrong.
Use Objective Facts and Avoid Anecdotes
While anecdotes are entertaining and moving, they lack objectivity. Staying objective strengthens your position by showing that your rationale takes into account the outliers that will always exist. Additionally, statistics are stronger and can easily discount the persuasiveness of an opponent’s anecdote. If an opponent in a debate resorts to anecdotes, it is easy to dismiss them with statistics that show the story is not a true reflection of the issue, but rather a red herring meant to distract. Using real measurable data allows you to present your position as an objective, logical conclusion based on facts.
Keep Calm and Listen to Your Opponent
When debating any topic, getting excited or riled up may be unavoidable, but you should do your best to avoid it. Being able to put your personal feelings aside, while difficult, is very important when it comes to understanding what your opponent is actually saying. If you get upset by their third sentence, you risk not really hearing what the rest of their position entails. Listening to your opponent is critical as it will enable you to distinguish your position as well. If you missed something, it invariably will be the most important thing.
If you’re looking for courses to perfect your debate skills, ones offered for a master’s degree in law are perfect. Education like this can teach you to pick apart arguments as you hear them, rather than getting worked up in the moment. They can also teach you how to argue passionately and get your point across without being viewed as aggressive. It’s a delicate balance, but becoming better at your debating skills can help put you ahead in your career or your personal life. Use these ideas to help your in-person arguments and give you an edge. It’s a great personal skill to have in almost any industry.
This article was contributed by guest author Brooke Chaplan.