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Locked: Ten Tips for Debating - Discussing On Forums
8 years ago  ::  Jun 30, 2010 - 9:12PM #1
Posts: 1,076

After watching a couple of threads on this board over the last couple of weeks, I felt this might be an appropriate time to bring this over from one of my other boards for the perusal of this boards users.

Ten Tips for Evolved Debating

We seem to have forgotten whatever we once knew about how to interact with opposing views.

Debate is no longer useful for examining both sides of a question, because we have already decided the outcome before it begins. Our objective is not to listen to our opponents but to vanquish them.  We talk over our opponent(s).  We avoid interacting with opposing views. When possible we choose communities and friends compatible with our side of the issues. We stay away from people on the other side. We could use our electronic media to listen to a variety of opinions, but instead most of us filter our input to shield ourselves from opposing views. We read the blogs we already agree with, watch the commentary that is biased in our own direction, read the newspapers and listen to the talk shows that support and reinforce our entrenched positions.

As we read, watch and listen, popular provocateurs skillfully tap into base emotions, and inflame them. They stir up our hatred and convince us that it is righteous anger. They tantalize our thirst for power with a promise of victory. They ignite our fears by demonizing our opponents, until we become convinced that we are utterly just and the other side is mired in evil (or at least incompetence). By the time we meet the other side face to face, we do not see them as they are. Instead we see the demons that zealots have conjured in our imaginations.

It is difficult to be immune to the primitive thrill of that explosive combination of anger, fear and lust for power. It feels good to believe that one is right. It feels good to believe that one is fighting for righteousness against evil. It feels good to believe that God is on one's side. But no matter how good it feels, that feeling is not truth. In fact, it can easily obscure the truth.

We don't have to give in to it. We are capable of debating in a manner more worthy of our calling. A more authentic and productive debate is not easy to achieve, but it is possible. From my experience, this is what it requires from me. I commend this to everyone. 

1. Do not demonize your opponents, and ignore those who do. As difficult as it might be to imagine, assume your opponents are people of good will, just as you are, trying their best, like you, to live lives of integrity.

2. Remember that provocateurs trade in traffic, not truth. This is true of bloggers as well as commercial media; they are interested in victory, and they want you for a soldier. If you find their words stir up hate and/or fear in you, you might best turn away from them.

3. Resist arrogance; embrace humility. For most of us, this is the most difficult task. Accept the possibility that no matter how deep your convictions, you might be wrong.

4. Be more interested in truth than in victory. Allow for the possibility that your opponent may have something to teach you.

5. Check yourself when you start feeling battle-lust. Your righteous anger may be fueled by something deeper, more personal, that is not related to the issue, and may in fact be clouding your judgment.

6. Listen to the other side. Find a source that isn't trying to whip up battle-lust, but articulates their position straightforwardly. Listen, really listen, with an open heart not just to their ideas but to their wounds, their fear, their hopes, their desires. Listen for the good in them. I promise you, it is there.

7. When you are wishing to have power over your opponent, consider the saying of Plato that those who most desire power are generally the least qualified to wield it.

8. Take a break from the battle. Step outside the issues and relate to your opponent on a human level. Find something you both love (music? food? baseball?) and relax in it together. Breathe.

9. Do a small kindness for your opponent, human to human, face to face. Love them, without trying to change them.

10. Above all, listen, in humility and silence, with an open heart. Do not assume that you know what will happen. Be open to the possibility that you will be surprised with something unexpected, something you could not have predicted or imagined. The opposite of truth is certainty. Leave a crack in the armor of your conviction, so that grace can leak in.

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