How many times have you argued with a colleague or friend over something, only to be overthrown a few seconds later due to a simple oversight from your end? Debates with anyone can happen when you least expect it. After all, we live in a world of varying points of view, so there are bound to be disagreements. This is where knowing how to debate can come in handy.
But it’s easier said than done; what makes great debaters win most of the time? How do they become so persuasive? Well, aside from mastering the power of reasoning, some other techniques may come in handy. Here are our tips on how you can debate and prove your point effectively:
Get your facts straight.
There is no greater way on how to debate and win than coming in prepared. Facts can back you up in any debate. Whether you are in a discussion with friends or presenting a brilliant marketing plan to colleagues, facts serve as the backbone of your argument.
Before the debate, do a lot of research and never assume that you already have enough facts. Prepare statistics, previous cases, etc. As an extra measure, after all the preparation, run it through with another person. Getting another person’s perspective can reveal loopholes in your argument you might earlier.
Control your emotions
We understand emotions can get the best of us at the height of debates and arguments. You have to note, though, that while it would be easier to raise your voice and start a scream fest, this direction gets you nowhere. Besides, with emotions running amok, it is hard to focus and think, hence putting you on the losing end.
Stay calm and take control of your emotions because once you let your emotions take control of you, you instantly lose the debate.
Know who you’re dealing with.
Sun Tzu once said, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” This comes extremely useful in how to win a debate.
Knowing the other party’s strengths, weaknesses, values, and background can give you leverages on how to debate effectively. Knowing your opponents lets you identify which parts to hit and which points to avoid.
Only when you are familiar with the opposing party’s characteristics would you have a clear picture of the strategy that you are going to take to succeed.
In a debate, definition plays a very important role in every case presented. It always helps if terms are properly defined and clarified to avoid further confusion.
This is especially beneficial to both parties. If anything for you is unclear, ask. Let definitions and standards be known so both parties can discuss terms on the same page.
Another important tip on how to debate effectively is to listen. In trying to raise a point, whether in school, work, or in our everyday dealings, we most often tend to focus on the position that we are going to present on without giving much consideration to the other side’s stand.
Winning a debate requires that you listen to the opponent’s arguments. It is only by listening that you have the opportunity to identify some weak points which you can use to tackle to your advantage later on. Moreover, listening to the other side’s position can give you an understanding of their perspective. It gives you a clear idea of why they stand with the option they chose.
Ask the right questions.
Asking the right questions gets you the advantage of being in control of the debate. This is why it’s so important to listen to the opposing argument so you know what questions to ask. Ask questions that can confront his point. Ask for evidence. Chances are your opponent may not be as prepared as you are and start to panic when you question his stance.
Ask hypothetical questions. Ask questions that provoke the other party. If he is on the opposing side, ask why he is so against your side. This is one of the best ways of knowing how to debate and succeed. One way or another, when the right questions are asked, opponents tend to react defensively and when provoked further, the weaker opponents will falter and give up.
Don’t get personal.
When debating, focus on the issue at hand, not on the opponent’s personal life. Attacking your opponent’s values, choices, etc. will get you nowhere. It would also make you sound unprofessional and insensitive. Focus on the points being discussed and do not delve into each other’s personal lives.
But what if it is your personal life that is being attacked? Keep your cool and call it out. Remind the other party that this is an objective debate, after which you can steer the discussions back to the positions being talked about.
Debating with a sly opponent can sometimes present you with facts and figures that tend to deviate from the main point being discussed. Should this happen, do not get distracted. A bit of good advice on how to debate and win is to stay on track with the discussion.
You can point out that this distraction is veering the debate away from the main point. Remind the other party that there can be further discussions at a future time for these other matters.
The secret on how to win a debate though is if you would have the guts to be the one to distract the opponent instead. If you do succeed in getting your opponent distracted, you’re in for the win.
Arm yourself with only the strong points.
An important tip on how to win a debate is to always choose to discuss your strong points. For example, if your argument has two very strong points and four weaker points, limit yourself to presenting and discussing only the two very strong points. Presenting the weaker points will only lead your opponent to rebut and question them. It opens doors for the opposing side to venture into.
When these weaker points get questioned, it could overshadow your strong points and could make your overall stand look weaker than it actually is.
Do not be scared to exaggerate.
When your opponent presents a position, do not be afraid to exaggerate that position. Extend the argument’s logic until it reaches an absurd conclusion. This method of argument is known as reductio ad absurdum (Latin for “reduction to absurdity”) and it can throw a huge curveball for your opponent and it can weaken his stand. It works especially well if your opponent’s position has some faulty logic that you can target.
Of course, don’t go overboard and take things way off point. This tactic requires you to ensure that you maintain a logical counter-argument while exaggerating the point so that you don’t sabotage yourself in the end. It takes a fair bit of clever thinking on your part so don’t attempt this tactic unless you’re absolutely sure that your arguments cannot be countered or questioned.
Believe in the power of positive body language.
An important factor in how to win a debate is to exhibit positive body language. While presenting your case, have your body face the person you are talking to. Avoid being stiff, whether while discussing your position or while listening to your opponent’s stand.
Research shows that a positive body language can decrease cortisol levels of up to 25%, therefore minimizing stress. This also results in your ability to think clearly.
Winning an argument isn’t just about preparation. It is also about how clearly you would be able to think to be able to process every point being discussed and to rebut whenever necessary.
Keep in mind, though, that while some debates are uncomfortable and stressful, as long as both parties remain constructive and professional, all arguments can lead to a better workplace, a better environment, a better solution.
So if you have a brilliant idea and you are just dying to have it implemented, go for it. Should there be a need to debate it out, use these tips on how to debate and stay on top.