Kol (abomvubuso) wrote in talk_politics,

Communicating in a debate

Interesting. A friend of mine whom i value a lot but whom i dont really know much personally (he knows who he is) has recently asked me for an advice about how the communication with other people could be improved, especially in the conditions of a heated debate. Say, an online political debate (i've heard they tend to get very heated).

Seems like i must've created the impression of being a very patient and tactful person, whereas i'm just a .... damn... i think i really am! (How humble)... :D

So, i gave it a thought with my only two brain cells which are currently in use, and i came up with this.

First, lets define "debate". There may be as many definitions as the number of people, as everyone has a different approach and purpose when entering a debate. For me its a way of learning something new: about important issues, about insignificant issues, about the world and life, and yes, about other people and the relations between them. Actually some might find it paradoxical, but i'm not here so much to talk politics, as to talk with people. Debate is also a means of sharing one's views and stances, presenting one's point of view and seeing how it relates to the rest. Maybe, hopefully, teaching something new to someone. Its a two-way process when debating with somebody, or a multi-side process when seen in more general sense. Granted, some (most?) will now tell me this isnt really a debate, its a discussion, and the only thing that makes a debate worthwhile is entering it to "win" something, although i cant see the use of trying to convince somebody of their "wrongness" (which is a fairly relative thing in most cases), or converting somebody to your cause, or just creating the overall impression of being either a smart ass that everyone should feel intimidated to talk with, or a terrible prick that everyone should fear addressing. As if fear equals real respect. Doesnt work for me, and seems like a total waste of time. But fine, to those who are really there to "win teh interwebz", good luck with that! I guess your reading stops here, and there's nothing more to learn by proceeding further down.

For the rest, here's the rest of my nonsensical gibberish. So, is there a way one can communicate better in a debate?

Well, you could start with counting to 10 before writing something you suspect might get controversial. By counting, i dont mean "1, 2, 3, 4 etc". I mean using 10 seconds to try to put yourself into the shoes/mind/whatevs of the other person that you're talking to. Trying to understand why they're saying what they're saying: is there something hidden behind their words that they're failing to communicate, or something they're trying to hide. What are they aiming to achieve by saying what they're saying. All in all, what reaction do they expect from you.

Then surprise them. Dont do what they expect you to do, because this way you're playing right into their hands. And we dont want that, do we? We want to "win" this thing, okay? So, see to it that you really get their purpose. If they're just trying to annoy you for their pleasure (ie trolling you), expose that and tell them they havent succeeded. If they persist, stop feeding the troll and ignore it, and it'll lose interest and will go away. If they're really deluded, show them where you think they're mistaken. Try to avoid using ad hominems, thats the most annoying trick one could possibly use. Stick to the issue and use the most powerful argumentation that you have at your disposal and, hopefully, if your point is supported with good facts, sound logic and reason, the other side will start to notice where they might be wrong. Or at least they'll agree to disagree with you. Or if nothing of this happens, at least you'll have done your part and you may say for sure you've tried your best. The audience (if there's one) surely does have brains in their skulls, dont worry - they can easily figure out who's wrong and who's right. Even if a troll is terribly vocal and eloquent, he's still a troll, and this never goes unnoticed. So let them embarrass themselves, they dont need your assistance for that. What one can do to himself, no-one else can do to him. :)

But when debating, remember to never ever go personal. This destroys the discourse right from the start. If you really wanted to achieve something in a debate, using ad hominems would surely bring you back to square one. And climbing back would be almost impossible.

And always demonstrate your respect. Always. When the other side senses that you respect their point, no matter how wrong you think it is, they'll find the ability to respect yours.

And lastly: LISTEN. Listen to people all the time. Hear what they're saying. Dont jump fast to conclusions about what they might mean and make judgments about what they really are, dont be hasty to stick labels to them, dont pick separate words out of context - see their statements within the entire context. LISTEN to them and show them that you're hearing what you're being told. When they sense that they're being heard, they'll actually start listening to you too. And if your point is the correct one, or at least the better one, they'll start seeing it for what its worth. Or at least they'll agree to disagree.

And if nothing works, it always helps to just stand up from this damn keyboard, walk away for a minute, breathe some fresh air, drink a lemon juice or a beer or something, and then you might like to come back and proceed. It usually has a tremendous effect. It never hurts to back away for a while, and review what might've gone wrong in your communication with the other guy - where you might've been misunderstood and where you might've misunderstood them. You could be amazed of the results.

I know, all of this was nothing new, its all cliches and good wishes, and yet its never too bad to have them regurgitated. And, come to think of it, how many of us have managed to do all of this? You'll realise its not easy at all. Most people have not been able to do all of it. But if you regularly manage to do at least 2 of these things right, you'll have a tremendous success. I guarantee.

Forgive me for going off politics this time, but give it 10 seconds of thought, with whatever quantity of brain cells you've got in use at present. And good luck.

Now. Talk politics, shall we? :)

Tags: highly recommended, opinion
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