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The Art of Debate: Knowing When to Walk Away

Posted by on Jan. 23, 2014 at 10:08 PM
  • 45 Replies
3 moms liked this

The Art of Debate: Knowing When to Walk Away

Recognizing when Enough is Enough

As someone recently pointed out to me, debate is more of an art form than a science. It is almost impossible to predict what will come out of nowhere, what your opponent will say, or what the reaction to the points you bring up will be. Debates over sensitive topics often become heated quickly. Unfortunately, the common consensus for impromptu or informal debates dictates that the person who walks away from the conversation first is viewed as the "loser". This couldn't be further from the truth.


It's difficult to know when the conversation has reached a conclusion. It's common to want the "last word". When your opponent resorts to ad hominem attacks instead of actually responding to your logical or reasoned answers, it's hard to take the high road. Tempers often flare and frustration abounds on both sides, especially if other people are involved in the debating process as well. Often the most reasoned of debaters are almost forced to lower their standards and respond in-kind, which cheapens the debate process and limits the effectiveness of the conversation as a whole.

Winners and Losers:
The unfortunate reality is that unless you're in a formal debate with a set structure and a moderator with a voting mechanism in place, there is rarely, if ever, going to be a clearly defined "winner" or "loser". Even the most experienced debaters encounter a debate phenomenon that is common across the board. Both parties deliver their best arguments and counter-arguments, ask questions and deliver their closing arguments. Then both parties walk away believing that they have "won" the discussion - even though both people realistically can't both be right.

When debating informally, the lines of distinction are even more blurry. The fact of the matter is, no matter how rational, logical or consistent you and your arguments were, the other person simply isn't likely to concede that you won, regardless of what was said. Each person feels that they won, and other people involved or watching will typically favor the person they already sided with in the beginning. Clear champions are rare.

Set the Bar Higher:
Instead of entering a discussion or debate with the intention of completely trouncing your (often unwitting) opponent, decide that your goal is to deliver the best possible arguments to defend your position, and keep a high standard for your responses and your emotions. Decide to not get caught up in trading insults, and refuse to sink to the level of your opponent - no matter how they treat you. Don't let your emotions come in to play. When debating, it's necessary to develop a thicker skin in the face of the common tactics employed by trolls or others just out to "get your goat".

If you start to feel your resolve cracking around the edges, it's time to stop. If that means your opponent claims victory, so be it. Chances are high that they're going to claim victory anyway - no matter what you do or say to the contrary.

Reevaluate the Point:
Informal debates are rarely defined and are often impromptu and disorganized. Seeing the big picture goes a long way when determining what your best course of action should be. How your opponent sees you or your arguments ultimately is of little importance. How you view yourself, however, is the more important factor that needs to be considered.

If you're going into a discussion with the intent of a clear, decisive victory, you're likely to be continually disappointed. I've never personally had a debate with someone who concedes that my arguments were more valid and rational and declared me the "winner". I don't go into debates with the purpose of deconverting my opponents, or to completely demoralize their often-irrational beliefs. I go into debates to get an alternative position out in the open, and to plant the seeds of alternative views in another person's mind. What they do with those seeds is ultimately up to them. Meanwhile, I can leave as necessary and feel good about how I've behaved, and what I've said. I take pride in how calm and rational I can be in the face of emotional outbursts. Sometimes my frustration gets the better of me, and I'm hardly perfect, but those experiences are simply steps along the path to growth and are valuable learning tools so I know what to not do next time.

Walking Away:
Since I debate for fun as well as part of my job, my general rule of thumb is to walk away when it's no longer fun or interesting - or when it's clear that the person I'm talking to is unwilling to recognize any of their own fallacies, and is not willing to debate or discuss the issue honestly. If I'm not getting anything out of the discussion and it turns into two people just trading verbal barbs, it's time to go. I can refocus my attention on more important matters.

It never hurts to be honest and tell your opponent that you have better things to do than contribute further in this discussion. If you're reached a dead end, it's okay to say so. That's the time to walk away with your head held high and pride in your accomplishments - even if you're the only one who sees them.

by on Jan. 23, 2014 at 10:08 PM
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Replies (1-10):
Clairwil
by Ruby Member on Jan. 24, 2014 at 4:43 AM
6 moms liked this

You don't need to wait until your opponent says "You win".

Just wait until your opponent has made a sufficient fool of themselves that the AUDIENCE realises.  :-)

turtle68
by Mahinaarangi on Jan. 24, 2014 at 4:59 AM

I walk away (well figuratively) when I become bored.

Debates in some of these groups are really intense and well....thats just not fun for me.

Discussion groups are more interesting to me.

Bitch groups are even better for those cold boring nights when there is nothing on tv :-)

Goodwoman614
by Satan on Jan. 24, 2014 at 4:59 AM
1 mom liked this


Quoting Clairwil:

You don't need to wait until your opponent says "You win".

Just wait until your opponent has made a sufficient fool of themselves that the AUDIENCE realises.  :-)

Around here (and other social media sites) a huge part of the audience never realizes. They're fools, too. Something else to keep in mind.

tossed
by Member on Jan. 24, 2014 at 5:47 AM
1 mom liked this

I was a high school and college debater. I LOVED the activity. I also coached college and high school teams. There are some current trends in college debate that I dislike, but I miss the competition. Debate taught me more than any class. 

MomTiara19
by Bronze Member on Jan. 24, 2014 at 6:22 AM
4 moms liked this

There is a difference between a debate and an argument.

When you debate someone they should stay on topic and not attack your personally.

Most people in this group have made up their minds where they stand as a democrat or republican.Their is no compromise or insight...only attacks and proving their point.

Who has time for the drama.....just move on.

Mommabearbergh
by on Jan. 24, 2014 at 9:24 AM
1 mom liked this
Here is not debates. If you brush people off with the your a liberal without actually knowing their political belief or you go you damn tea baggers its like what is the use or you believe that one race horrible thing and then try to justify the horrible thing but condemn it when another race does it. It's like wth. Like when people were up in arms about the NSA recording everyone but did not say a peep when the patriot act was doing it to a group of people who were doing nothing
SuperChicken
by on Jan. 24, 2014 at 9:32 AM
4 moms liked this

I just get bored and wander off to more interesting conversations.    Even if it's my own thread, lol.   I don't really care if I "win" or not.    

survivorinohio
by René on Jan. 24, 2014 at 9:42 AM
1 mom liked this


Quoting SuperChicken:

I just get bored and wander off to more interesting conversations.    Even if it's my own thread, lol.   I don't really care if I "win" or not.    

When its the same people saying the same things boredom can come quickly which is why I confess that I can find crazy trolls a lot of fun lol.

How far you go in life depends on your being: tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of both the weak and strong.  Because someday in life you would have been one or all of these.  GeorgeWashingtonCarver


snookyfritz
by Platinum Member on Jan. 24, 2014 at 9:53 AM
2 moms liked this

Great article.  I walk away when it gets personal or the answer is a one-liner.  I want to talk to people.  Passion is good, drama is drama. 

PurdueMom
by Sherri on Jan. 24, 2014 at 9:58 AM
2 moms liked this

I enjoy a good debate or discussion, but it's very rare I get emotionally involved.  I can walk away from a conversation easily and do all the time.  If that makes the other person feel I've lost and she's won, so what.

Sherri

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