3 ways to debate

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3 ways to debate
3 ways to debate

Having a friendly or formal conversation is an ancient art. These days, you can have intellectual competition in a common backyard showdown, or as part of an organized debate. Whether you are debating spontaneously, as part of a team, or on your own, this can help you learn some of the popular informal and formal discussion formats and strategies.


Method 1 of 3: Debating in Everyday Life

Discussion Step 1
Discussion Step 1

Step 1. Start a discussion by asking questions

By probing by asking questions, you can slowly reveal a debate. You will not have a formal debate, so you will not know what position the other person will take in the debate, or what they believe. Ask questions to narrow things down.

  • To get a sense of the person's interests and expertise, ask a detailed question such as: "Do you think the lack of data in the fossil record reveals something serious about Darwinism?"
  • Ask for their opinion directly. "What is your position on positive discrimination?"
Discussion Step 2
Discussion Step 2

Step 2. Understand the other person's posture

Ask him to clear up any confusing areas. Nobody has a totally coherent world view; however, it is difficult to debate with a person who is distracted. Kindly encourage her to stick to a line of argument that is relatively consistent.

If you are unsure of her argument, help her in a non-threatening way. You can say something like the following: "Let me see if I understand you, what you say is that pennies should stop being used, because it costs more than a few pennies to produce these coins?"

Discussion Step 3
Discussion Step 3

Step 3. Present your counterargument

Present your counterargument after respectfully repeating what the other person has said. Explain the gist of what you believe and how you counter their argument. Try to develop an idea that is as strong as yours. It is not enough to tell her that she is wrong, come up with something that you can sustain and that is a solid belief.

  • For example, if you say the government should give hybrid car owners tax breaks, don't just say, "I think you're wrong and that's a terrible idea."
  • Instead, he counters his idea with another, such as the following: "I think that the government should focus on the development of traffic in the city, since it will be better for the environment if we completely eliminate excessive use of cars.".
  • In addition to your thesis, provide examples that illustrate why you have a certain belief.

Discussion Step 4
Discussion Step 4

Step 4. Refute the other person's argument

After you have presented your counterargument, try to refute their argument with supporting arguments as well as the evidence for them.

“Does it really make sense to indicate that every type of government (municipal, state or federal) should legislate sexual morality? The problem is not whether they could do it, since they are capable of it; the question is whether it would be okay for them to tell us how we treat our own bodies in the privacy of our homes. If we let them have one foot in, when will they stop? "

Discussion Step 5
Discussion Step 5

Step 5. Respond to any rebuttal from the other person

The person you are arguing with will most likely disagree with some of what you say. Take their rebuttals into account and address them when they are done speaking.

  • This will be an informal discussion, so you won't have to take notes. Use more casual methods to recall your friend's points of view. For example, you could use your fingers to control the number of points you want to tackle.
  • Bend one finger for each point, and release one when you have disproved a point.
  • If this doesn't work for you, just ask your friend to remind you of what they said. He will like to repeat it to you.
Discussion Step 6
Discussion Step 6

Step 6. Identify fallacies in logic

If someone presents an argument with an unwise structure, identify it and correct it politely. Common fallacies in logic include slippery slope arguments, circular reasoning, and ad hominem attacks.

  • Imagine that your interlocutor says “If we allow refugees from war to enter our country, very soon we will have to allow entry of everyone who suffers a man-made disaster, then all the victims of a natural disaster, and then to all who suffer in any way. In the end, our country will be totally overcrowded!”.
  • You could respond by saying “I understand your concern, but I think your logic has a flaw. One thing does not always lead to another, what you say is a slippery slope fallacy”.
Discussion Step 7
Discussion Step 7

Step 7. Take things with a relaxed attitude

Don't touch on a topic that your friend or acquaintance doesn't want to talk about. If you are both enjoying the discussion, you should express kindness and stay relaxed throughout the discussion. It is wise to be nice to the other person, even if you are arguing with them. Do not do the following:

  • Don't monopolize the conversation. This is an informal discussion, which should include an exchange of ideas with total freedom. You should not talk without stopping about why you are right and the other person is wrong.
  • Don't assume the other person is speaking with bad intentions. He could have said something inappropriate or the debate could have inadvertently heated up. It is best to assume that the other person will come to the debate expecting to have only friendly verbal competition, and that they are not looking to hurt you.
  • Don't raise your voice or let things get heated. Try not to get so caught up in the debate to the point of losing your cool. A debate should be civil and informative, not a lesson in intimidation.
Discussion Step 8
Discussion Step 8

Step 8. Don't repeat the same arguments over and over

Some debates become repetitive and endless because neither side is willing to admit defeat. If you find yourself in a never ending debate, don't force things. Just say “I respect your opinion. I don't agree with you, but maybe I will in the future. Give me a little time to think about it."

Discussion Step 9
Discussion Step 9

Step 9. Finish in a friendly way

No one will want to debate with you if you are a sore loser or if you refuse to treat your opponent with respect. No matter how heated the debate may have gotten, try to be friendly when things break down. You can disagree with someone, but this does not mean that they cannot be friends.

Method 2 of 3: Be Effective in a Formal Debate

Discussion Step 10
Discussion Step 10

Step 1. Stick to all professional rules and standards

The rules will vary in each situation, but many standards are common to most discussions. Dress like a serious debate participant and show an attitude to match. Wear an equally formal suit or attire for any major formal debate (basically, any debate you want to win). Dress up as a politician or as if you are attending a funeral. Stay with the jacket on at all times, and also with the tie if you are going to wear one.

  • Don't wear anything tight or revealing.
  • Look up at the judge when you speak, and speak stopped.
  • If you are going to quote, read the full quotes.
  • If you're not sure your actions are professional, ask the judge for permission. For example, if you want to leave the room to drink water, ask permission.
  • In team discussions, don't give your partner hints, unless they jeopardize their chances of winning. Avoid doing it at all.
  • Keep your cell phone off.
  • Don't say bad words.
  • Only tell jokes that are appreciated in a professional setting. Don't make jokes that are risque or that focus on inconsiderate stereotypes.
Discussion Step 11
Discussion Step 11

Step 2. Get ready to receive a theme

For example, in the British Parliament debate model, one team should debate on the 'yes' position and the other on the 'negative' position. The team that agrees with the issue is called the affirmative, and the one that disagrees is the negative.

  • In political debate, the affirmative team proposes a plan and the negative team argues that it should not be enacted.
  • Both teams will sit near the front of the room where they will speak. The affirmative team (the Government) will be on the left and the negative team (the opposition) will be on the right.
  • The moderator or judge will initiate the debate, and the first speaker will present their speech. The order of the speakers is usually affirmative, negative, affirmative, negative, and so on.
Discussion Step 12
Discussion Step 12

Step 3. Define the topic simply when necessary

If you are going to argue that "the death penalty is a just and effective punishment," perhaps the issue is already very clear. However, if you receive a topic like “Happiness is a nobler trait than intelligence,” you may need to provide a definition of the topic before proceeding.

  • The affirmative team always has the first and best opportunity to define the issue. To define well, try to imitate the way an average passerby would define the subject. If your performance is too clever, the other team might attack it.
  • The negative team will have an opportunity to rebut the definition (known as contesting the definition) and provide their own, but only if the affirmative team's definition is irrational or renders the negative team's position obsolete. The first speaker of the negative team must refute the opposing team's definition if they wish to challenge it.
Discussion Step 13
Discussion Step 13

Step 4. Write your speech in the allotted time

Stay on top of the weather, and set a timer for a minute before your time runs out, so you can review your argument before finishing. The time allotted for writing will depend on the style of the discussion. For example, in the case of the British Parliament model, you probably have 7 minutes. To write effectively, first write down your main points, then post any evidence, additional rebuttals, and any examples or anecdotes that you decide to post.

Depending on the position you defend, you will have to follow certain protocols, such as defining the topic or presenting a main argument

Discussion Step 14
Discussion Step 14

Step 5. Back up your argument

If you say "I believe that the death penalty should be abolished," you should be prepared to show why this is the best option. Provide supporting arguments and supporting evidence. Your supporting arguments and your evidence must relate to your position, or your opposition could use them to their advantage or ask that they be rejected.

  • The arguments of the opposition could be "The death penalty is more expensive than life in prison", "The death penalty does not provide any opportunity to assert yourself" or "The death penalty makes us look bad in the international community".
  • Evidence can include statistics and expert opinions.
Discussion Step 15
Discussion Step 15

Step 6. Choose carefully what to include

If you don't know about it, don't debate, unless you have no other option. If you don't know much about the subject, at least remember some ambiguous information, so your opponents will have a hard time refuting your claims.

  • If they don't understand it, they won't be able to refute it. Keep in mind that the judge may not understand you very well either; however, perhaps trying is better than saying “I don't know anything. I agree with my opponents”.
  • Don't use rhetorical questions. Always provide a clear answer to every question you ask. Leaving a question open will give your opponents a chance to rebut.
  • Use religion only when appropriate. Usually what is written in the Bible, Torah, Quran, etc. It is not a solid source that you can use to prove your point, as not everyone considers these sources to be true.
Discussion Step 16
Discussion Step 16

Step 7. Present your argument with feeling

Deliver your speech with passion. A monotonous voice will bore people, and they may not understand what you are trying to say. Speak in a clear, slow and strong voice.

  • Make eye contact with the person in charge of choosing the debate winners. You can look at your opponents from time to time, but try to direct your argument to the judge.
  • Provide the structure of your argument before expressing it. This way, the public will know what will happen, and the judge will not interrupt you, unless you have exceeded your time.
Discussion Step 17
Discussion Step 17

Step 8. Strike a balance between presenting your team's views and refuting your opponent's

Teams take turns debating, so rebuttals can always be made, unless you are the first speaker on the affirmative team. For example, in the British Parliament debate model, both teams could organize their debate strategy in this way:

  • Affirmative team first speaker:
    • Define the topic (optional) and present the main argument of the team.
    • Briefly state what each speaker on the affirmative team will speak.
    • Present the first half of your team's argument.
  • Negative team first speaker:
    • Accept or reject the definition (optional) and present your team's main argument.
    • Briefly state what each speaker on the negative team will be talking about.
    • Refute some of the points made by the first speaker of the affirmative team.
    • Present the first half of your team's argument.
  • This will continue with the arguments of the second and third speakers of the affirmative and negative team.
Discussion Step 18
Discussion Step 18

Step 9. Refute the main points of your opponents' argument

When refuting a team's argument, you should remember the following:

  • Provide evidence for your rebuttal. Don't just rely on a strong claim. Show the moderator why the other team's argument is basically wrong; don't just tell them.
  • Attack the most important parts of your argument. It is not very effective that you speak of an ambiguous part of the opponent's argument. Tackle the gist of his argument and extract it with the relentless efficiency of a surgeon.
  • For example, if your opponent argues that the military budget should be increased, but also casually asserts that citizens do not show appreciation for what the military does, you can dismiss the latter by calmly saying “I disagree” and focusing on the problems that would arise from increasing the current budget.
  • Don't do ad hominem attacks. An ad hominem attack consists of criticizing another person, rather than their ideas. Attack the idea, not the person.
Discussion Step 19
Discussion Step 19

Step 10. Use all of your time (or most)

The more you talk, the more you will convince the judge. Keep in mind that this means that you have to come up with lots of examples, not that you have to babble. The more the judge listens to why you are correct, the more they will be willing to believe you.

Discussion Step 20
Discussion Step 20

Step 11. Know what aspects of the debate you will be judged by, if appropriate

Discussions are generally evaluated in 3 main areas: content, behavior, and method.

  • The content it is the amount of evidence and its relevance. How much evidence does the speaker provide to support his claims? How effective is the evidence in supporting the argument?
  • The behaviour It consists of eye contact and participation with the audience. Don't stare at your cards! Speak clearly. Accentuate your arguments with volume, tone, and speed to highlight the important parts. Use the body to emphasize your arguments; To do this, stand up straight and make gestures with confidence. Don't stutter, fiddle with your hands, or walk fidgety.
  • The method it is the cohesion of the team. How effectively does the whole team organize their arguments and rebuttals? How effectively do each of the arguments, as well as the rebuttals, fit together? How clear and consistent is the team's argument?

Method 3 of 3: Choose a type of formal discussion

Discussion Step 21
Discussion Step 21

Step 1. Consider team discussions

Debating in teams of 2 or more can improve your teamwork skills. Working with colleagues can give you a wealth of knowledge and research that you can continue to use in your future discussions.

  • Try political debates. In the US, this is a 2v2 format, in which your team discusses a topic that the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) establishes throughout the year. This will test your investigative skills and your overall determination; In addition, it is popular with high school students trying to get into highly competitive universities.
  • Try the World Schools debate. This is an NSDA approved style of debate in which teams debate 3v3. Topics are fixed and spontaneous, and the style is highly interactive, allowing teams to ask questions even during speeches.
Discussion Step 22
Discussion Step 22

Step 2. Participate in a 1v1 debate

This is a great option for aspiring lawyers and people who prefer to work alone.

  • Check out the Lincoln-Douglas debates, if you are in the US This is a 45 minute debate where you will have to debate on a topic that the NSDA chooses. This discussion encompasses a thorough investigation prior to the discussion, but no investigation is allowed during the discussion.
  • Try extemporaneous debate. Try extemporaneous debate for a fast-paced and exciting experience. They will tell you the topic and your position (for or against) half an hour before the debate begins, and you will have to research and formulate your argument in that time. The whole debate lasts only 20 minutes.
Discussion Step 23
Discussion Step 23

Step 3. Participate in political simulation discussions

A fun way to get ready for a future in politics (or just interact with other debaters) is to hold a debate that simulates an actual political decision-making process.

  • If you are in the US, take part in a congressional debate. This is a popular NSDA format that follows the guidelines of the US legislature. 10 to 25 people will participate in the debate, and an official will be chosen to chair and lead it. In the end, everyone will vote to approve or disapprove a resolution.
  • Check out the British Parliament debate model. This format is popular in academic centers and is used throughout the world. This is carried out with four teams of 2 people, two of which defend a position and the other two represent the opposition. One speaker will represent each team, which means that the actual debate will remain 2v2.


  • Practice from time to time, so you will feel comfortable in the environment of debate and discussion.
  • In your vote of thanks, first thank the other team, then the judge, the moderator, the timekeeper, and the audience.
  • Study the previous discussions. However, do not steal the views of such debates at face value.
  • There are no definitive rules. Do what makes the most sense to you. If you want to express 100 points of view, do so. If you want to express only one and defend it throughout the debate, you can. There is no "right" or "wrong" way to debate.
  • You will hear a single bell 1 minute before the time limit, a double bell when the time is up, and a triple bell 30 seconds later.
  • Never argue with the judge.
  • In an informal discussion, when you are given the floor, you should be ready immediately or within 5 seconds.
  • Keep your argument simple, it will not help if you express it in pretentious words, as this can cause the judge to have a bad impression of you.
  • Just relax, you will need to gather key terms of the rebuttal.

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