In a world where heated flame wars seem to erupt daily on social media, it can seem as if having any type of civil discourse is impossible. In some cases, it might be when the topics are just to emotionally charged. In other cases, however, it is more than possible to have a civilized debate about even the touchiest of topics. The key is to have an educated debate. Here are 4 tips for having an educated debate.
Avoid “Hot Button” Topics Where Possible
There are always going to be times when you will actually need to have hot button discussions with people, such as discussing religious or political issues with your spouse. In the social realm, however, it is rarely necessary, so it is best to simply avoid them whenever possible.
Do Not Debate What You Do Not Know
In a world of Google and 30-second sound bites, it can be easy for people to believe they are experts on a wide range of topics they actually know almost nothing about. An educated debate first requires an extensive education on the topic being debated. If you do not have a degree or several years of education or experience with the topic, it’s best not to engage in a debate on the subject.
Understand the Goal
The goal of educated debate is never to prove one party right and the other wrong. In truth, the world is far too mysterious and complex to ever have concrete and definite answers to a wide range of questions. The purpose of debate is to advance our knowledge and understanding of a topic. Others possess critical information and insights that we do not have, but we can gain through educated debate. When an educated debate is successful, both parties should walk away feeling like they gained new insight and understanding.
Know When to Walk Away
No matter how great our intentions might be at the outset, there will often come a point where the focus shifts from merely engaging in educational discourse to needing to “win” or prove the other person wrong. When and if that shift happens, it is time to walk away. This may mean simply changing the subject or it may literally mean walking away, but one way or another, if the goal shifts from learning to combat, it’s time to shut it down.