Who doesn't love a good online political debate?
Online debating may be viewed as a "pointless waste of time" by many people, but it has its benefits.
Discussion and debate are how we evolve as a civilization. Ask the Ancient Greeks. Intellectual communication and conflict are imperative to our growth, whether in a coffee house in France or a university in Boston.
In modern times, debates frequently occur online. Though the platform for online discussion is a bit different from the university, they are essentially the same. Social media and debate websites are the marketplaces for freely exchanging ideas. (At least they should be.)
Because the forum is a little different, there are things to keep in mind to help you improve your online debating so that it's beneficial to all parties involved. Here, we examine eight ways to improve your online debates.
1. Pretend You're in Person
The internet was an alternate reality decades ago, but that has changed. What you do online can reflect on your life. It's common for people to face ramifications at school, their jobs or their personal life for their online behavior.
When debating online, imagine the person is with you at a dinner party or a coffee house. How would you treat them? What would your demeanor and attitude be like if you debated in person? Would you show your opponent respect or quickly lose your temper and call them an idiot?
Pretending that you're in person can give the discussion a human feel. When we connect to others personally, we communicate emotions better. The debate will prove beneficial if both parties respect each other.
2. Forget About Winning
Sure, winning a debate feels good, but it's not the core objective of intellectual discussion. Debating aims to hear new ideas and test your beliefs so that you may evolve intellectually.
Iron sharpens iron. Without rigorously questioning your beliefs, you're doomed to remain intellectually stagnant, which is not what we want. The world needs strong intellectuals to propel civilization forward.
Like a fencer, boxers or martial artists, we spar to test our skills. We learn from the fight. We don't take cheap shops, use insults or boisterously declare ourselves the winner before the competition is finished.
Winning a debate isn't the sole purpose of a discussion. Instead of thinking about how you can win the argument, think about how you and your opponent can grow and evolve from the fruitful conversation you're having.
The intellectual world doesn't need winners; it needs open-minded competitors willing to challenge and change their beliefs, creating a vast ocean of philosophical thought. Thought-provoking and inspiring debates are beautiful assets to the whole of civilization.
3. Compliment Your Opponent
Even if you vehemently disagree with your opponent, seek their quality comments, attitudes, or thoughts and offer praise. If your opponent makes a valid point, don't be afraid to acknowledge it. "I like what you said there." "I appreciate that thought." "Excellent point."
A debate isn't a bar fight; it's a sport. Much like a good karate match, when your debate opponent gets in a good hit, it is noble to say, "great shot."
Complimenting your opponent shows excellent character, and it keeps the conversation fruitful. They will most likely respond to your positive attitude with respect.
4. Focus on Your Opponent
On social media like Facebook, it's not uncommon for multiple people to become engaged in your conversation. Without being rude, ignore the other comments as much as you can and focus on your original opponent.
Tune out all other distractions and focus on your opponent. You started the conversation with them; giving them your attention is respectful.
5. Give Your Opponent Time to Respond
It can be a natural instinct to want to submit multiple comments and points before your opponent can respond. Fight the urge to make various points and commentary before they reply.
Give your opponent respect and space to rebuttal. Don't overload them with material to read through. Offer your point, then wait for their reply. Carefully read their response before submitting any new comments.
6. Be The Voice of Calm
We're human, and we all have emotions. A good debate can get toxic quickly if emotions are high and tempers start to flare.
Someone has to be the voice of calm if the discussion is worth saving. It shows strength, not weakness, to quell the tension without being accusatory. Don't call attention to emotion. Avoid saying things like "you need to calm down" or "you're getting hostile." It'll only make things worse.
Understanding goes a long way. Most of the time, tempers flare when your opponent feels like they're not being heard. Nobody likes that.
There's a quick and easy way to turn down the heat when anger presents itself in a debate. Give them the spotlight. Show interest by asking them to embellish or explain their point more. "I'm interested in what you're saying here. Can you tell me more about it?"
Giving your opponent the floor and allowing them to feel heard and appreciated will bring them back to a state of calm.
It's important to note that disengaging is perfectly acceptable if they're being abusive, derogatory or insulting. I've had debates online with friends, and, despite all my effort to keep it civilized, they chose to end our discussion by refusing to be respectful. It happens.
Most of the time, an argument or debate can be saved if you implement a resolution strategy that focuses on the discussion's core objective: to learn and grow from each other's insight.
7. Leave The Straw Man in The Cornfield
The straw man fallacy is when an opponent takes your point or position and exaggerates it, then attacks the extreme version in hopes of discrediting your original argument.
A common example of a straw man can be found in the debate about gun control vs. gun rights. Opponents of gun liberty will snidely ask, "should people be allowed to own tanks or nuclear bombs?"
The supporter of gun rights now has to defend owning nuclear arms, distorting the original debate about gun laws in America. Libertarians are used to this.
The straw man argument is cheap, tawdry and generally viewed as a weak tactic in a debate.
Stick to the steel man tactic, where you address your opponent's strongest argument. The debate will be more effective and fruitful if you leave the straw man in the cornfield.
8. Say Thank You
Online debates can be a wonderful thing if employed civilly. We all have one life to live with limited time on this Earth. Appreciate that someone has taken the time to have a conversation with you. Consider how amazing it is that you're living in an age where you can debate whenever you desire.
"Thank you" is not practiced enough in our high-tech online world, but it should be. Great intellectuals throughout history have always appreciated and thanked their opponents, and you should, too.
"Thank you for your response." "I appreciate your point of view; thank you for that." "That was a great debate, thank you."
With these tips, you can start having fruitful and beneficial conversations online and grow intellectually. Knowledge is a precious gift; the more we share it, the better off we will be as a civilization.
If you enjoyed this article, you may also like "5 Reasons Why It's Good to Have Intelligent Enemies."