Sometimes, you may find yourself in the middle of an argument or debate about a topic that is important to you. Don’t lose your cool. Stay calm and professional and you can win friends, network, and keep your reputation intact.
Don’t start the debate or discussion if you know initially that it will incite a reaction in you. You will gain more friends and influence more people with silence than with screaming. Strategic silence speaks volumes.
I am terrible at debating. Really, really bad. I flail, I let my emotions get in the way, I get annoyed, all the things you shouldn’t do. If I was to engage I would use this advice to help myself argue my point without getting flustered.
- Do it for the right reasons. Do it for yourself. Not for others.
- Don’t expect people to change straight away. Or at all. Don’t go in with any expectations.
- Agree to disagree. You can still be friends with people who disagree with you in certain ways.
- We do not know what led the person to their original decision to have that opinion. Just like we ourselves have had cataclysmic moments in our lives that have shifted our opinions, so has the other person.
- Leave emotion out of it as much as you can (incredibly difficult). This can be achieved with certain techniques, such as pretending you are someone else. As just saying to yourself “I won’t get emotional” is usually useless.
- Know when to walk away and just end the argument if you are getting too personally involved. Or if you’re just not getting anywhere, OR if the other person is getting too heated. Sometimes it’s better just saying “Look lets agree to disagree here”. It takes incredible courage to ‘be the bigger person’.
- Don’t act hardheaded or just assume you are right and the other person is wrong. Try to think of the other person’s opinion, and your own, in an objective way. What is logically correct? What can get construed by emotion or the nature/nurture argument? Is there a way to truly be correct at all in the debate?
- Try at all means to use it as a learning curve. What can you learn from the experience? How did you come to your initial conclusion and why are your opinions so different in the first place? Look further than the attack.
- Your aim should not be to ‘win’ – don’t go so hard you offend the opposition. Present logical, emotionless facts. Whether or not they believe you is up to them to decide.
- If this is a friend, don’t sacrifice a friendship or say things that will cross the line. Because they are your friend they are more likely to respect your decision either way.
Things to never say during an argument or debate:
- “Grow Up”. We are all grown ups here. Implying your opinion is more ‘adult’ than the other persons is really insulting and will give the other person a very, very negative view of you, making them even more unlikely to change their minds.
- “Stop being so immature” – along a similar vein, everyone has had different upbringings. You are no more mature than a person with a different opinion. Personal experience is so different from person to person, respect the experience.
- Personal Insults – never, ever, EVER make it personal. Do not insult that persons exterior in any way, do not insult their intelligence or their thinking, do not insult their mother or family or husband or wife or pets or anyone. You may not know this person in a way like these people do. This person may be incredibly kind, and by insulting them it actually is likely to strip them of kindness. It is also very likely to make them walk away from you, and with good reason. A healthy argument or debate never gets personal. Whether it is about health, religion, politics, etc, present the facts how you know them, then let the other person do the same.
- “What is wrong with you?” – this hurts. I’ve said this and I’ve had people say this to me and you immediately see the effect on someone’s face. It’s not nice. This goes along with personal insults.
If you can’t argue your point without hurting others. Don’t do it. Choose to stay silent and think about how you would go forming an argument without them there, or, choose to argue about the issue with someone that agrees with you. This actually helps pick out your biases and try to see where people from the other side are coming from without actually hurting anyone.
Good luck! There’s always sincere apologies if the damage has already been done…