Dr. Debate: My 10 Step Program To Winning Debates
I was asked in irony to write this, but I’ll give it a shot anyway.
It’s no secret to anyone that knows me whether it is friends, acquaintances, people from the past or readers of this blog that I like to debate with people.
A friend of mine poked fun at me a couple of days ago because of how often it happens. When I say debating, this isn’t the typical “hey fuck you man” affair. No, it’s more of “I don’t agree with that and here’s why. Let’s talk about it.”
He stated that he will in fact try to get me to debate about the dumbest things imaginable. Only because I know he is, I haven’t taken the bait thus far. He’s tried on three occasions. I told him if that is indeed a challenge, I will keep track so I can write the top 10 dumbest things I have ever debated. I hope he wins because that would be a funny column.
So far, I have one.
Since that conversation, apparently my new nickname is Dr. Debate.
I wish I could give you the definitive why I enjoy it. If there was an intervention for me regarding anything, it would likely be debating.
If I had a gun to my head and forced to pinpoint it to something, it would likely be my dad I guess. The major difference between he and I, aside from me being right ALL THE TIME (totally joking btw), he does it out of necessity where as I view debating as sport.
Recently, many people watched The Last Dance about the 90s Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan. He had thirst for getting even with people who doubted him and a thirst for competing.
I can relate on a number of levels. I do the same for people who doubt me. I also thirst for the desire to engage in complex conversation.
As a kid, sure I liked to talk about sports, wrestling or whatever interested me. But there was never this thirst to debate. I was never really taken that serious by my peers growing up. I’ve written in the past that I always felt stuck in the middle. That is how I viewed myself. I always felt like I needed to prove more to myself and to others. Maybe that is where it started.
As I got older and gained more confidence, it allowed me to really be myself to some degree.
Another component is perhaps social media. It grates my last nerve seeing the amount of false information being spread. I have found myself commenting on people’s posts, essentially fact checking them as of late. There is too much false information coming from every angle. Most of it (not all) can be easily researched with quick google search.
Yet, too many people share because of the confirmation bias.
Like my buddy once told me, argue with someone smarter than you, you likely lose. Argue with someone dumber than you, you always lose.
So I guess in a sense, challenge accepted because I do both. More so than anything, I want the truth in everything. Some things of course have shades of gray, but that is where we need to be well versed and defend our stances.
To turn this into something more fun instead of another 2,500 word diatribe about it, Dr. Debate will share his steps to winning. Keep in mind that winning debates doesn’t necessarily lead to people liking you. I can think of plenty of people who don’t like me because of it. So be it. On the flip side, it’s gained me a handful of friends and loyal followers over the years. That is pretty damn cool.
But here are the tips to winning…
1 – You have two ears, two eyes and one voice, use it accordingly.
There is nothing worse than the person screaming louder and louder because they can’t adequately get their point across. Louder doesn’t make you right. One of my favorite clips was when Stephen Colbert had Bill O’Reilly appear on the Colbert Report many years ago. After trolling Bill to the point of him screaming and yelling, he sarcastically told him (paraphrasing), you know Bill, people often give you credit for what you say, but never how loud you say it. It was the most backhanded compliment I have ever heard.
It’s easier to win when you’re composed. I firmly believe that many parts of life are about action and reaction. How you react tells more of the story than what you say.
Lastly, if you actually listen and observe the person on the other side, it will lead to more ammo in the tank. People often forget to listen and then respond to a point being made on the other side, while missing several other points along the way.
The beauty of debating via internet, no one can be loud and talk over you as much as they try. It’s often funny when people do that.
2 – Ask Questions
In short, the more you ask, the more you can spin the web for the person you’re talking to. Ask them to explain their opinions and elaborate. This will give you an idea on whether or not they know the subject. If they can’t explain their thoughts thoroughly, they’re already on the ropes.
3 – Bring Your Facts
Facts don’t care about your feelings, to quote Ben Shapiro.
What are facts?
They are truth. They are substantiated. They are certainties. They are reality.
This can range from a number of things such as science, statistics (although fact check those) or events that happened. If you’re going insert your subjective sense of a topic, defend it. Any asshole can say Covid19 doesn’t exist, but where’s your evidence?
4. Know The Other Side So You Can Plan Ahead
This is perhaps the most important thing about debating, know the other side of the coin. Anytime that I am writing a column or speaking on a topic that is highly debatable, I want to know what the counter arguments are before they are launched.
Often times, I am calling it out before they can say it. It establishes credibility of your willingness to not only hear the other side, but you dotted your i’s and crossed your t’s.
For those who have seen the movie 8-mile with Eminem. Do you remember the final rap battle with B-Rabbit and Papa Doc?
Eminem goes first on stage and instead of launching insults at his opponent, he proceeded to face the reality of what he was. This led to Papa Doc going to stone cold silence and choking.
That same logic applies to debating. Call out the other side before they can bring the argument to the table. You do this and you likely save time on the conversation because you’re playing ahead of the conversation.
5 – Keep Your Emotion Out of It
This is easily one of the most difficult parts of debating for people. They can’t set aside their emotion which leads to subjective arguments versus objective.
I recently wrote my top 10 NBA Players in history. Being almost 29, many of my peers are mega Kobe Bryant fans. I ranked him 10th and justifiably so. If you disagree, you better follow the steps.
Of all the people who responded regarding his rank, only one was willing to debate and it was all emotionally based. He could not provide one single shred of evidence to say where I was wrong in my contention. Another just sent me an emoticon and slammed me for putting Kobe behind Magic Johnson, he never answered me when I asked how it’s wrong.
Anytime emotion is brought into the equation without recognition, that is blood in the water for me.
6 – Admit Your Biases
Like I said, I am almost 29. I know the people my age well. I know plenty of them love Kobe. In fact, I had about a half a dozen say they wish they could debate me on it, but they couldn’t. They couldn’t provide counters to any of the facts I presented to make my case.
Did I try to will them to my side of the coin? No. They admitted the one thing that can’t be questioned on, bias. If you admit you’re biased, you’re admitting that you can’t take your emotion out of the equation. Therefore, the debate becomes pointless.
It is not so much an admission of defeat as it is an admission of being unequipped to have the conversation. I don’t view that in a negative way. In most cases, it is usually not a problem.
Now if you are talking about anti-vaxxers, then yeah, that’s a problem. They don’t admit bias. They take pseudoscience and use it as actual scientific method.
7 – Be Open-Minded
The entire point of a debate is to find middle ground and see the other side in some ways. If someone disagrees, that doesn’t make them wrong if we are debating about something subjective.
If they are telling you the Earth is flat, then yes slam that door shut.
I’ll keep using the NBA Top 10 list as a point of reference because of how fresh it is. I had a former teacher whom I respect very much comment disagreeing with Wilt Chamberlain over Kareem Abdul Jabar. He brought very sound points to the table. They were rooted in facts. They weren’t emotionally driven. He was laying out his case and eloquently. We may not agree, but we were both willing to listen to the other. We carried the conversation accordingly.
Concede any good points that come your way.
8 – Don’t Be the First to Throw Insults
Personally, I view the person who throws the first jab as a sign of inferiority and weakness. I am not going to pretend I have always taken the high road on this. I always feel if someone is willing to throw the jab, be ready for the duck and haymaker.
You automatically lose credibility from everything you say once you to start firing jabs not related to the conversation.
For me, the second that happens is the second I make sure I bury you verbally.
I had someone comment on the top 10 who disagreed with what I said. I responded by sending him my column and said check this out, this explains my stance more thoroughly. Keep in mind that column was 3,000 words.
He proceeded to tell me based on my Kobe ranking that I didn’t know basketball and laughed about my ranking of Wilt Chamberlain. However, he never once countered with any facts explaining why he disagreed. In one statement, he broke rules 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8 in 21 words. Because I had asked to explain how I am wrong, the response was “too much to type.”
It was at that point, I decided to have fun and keep question everything he said. It led to more insults, unsubstantiated claims and him trying to throw his dick on the table telling me to call him for a debate. I one upped that by agreeing to the call and said we can record it turn it into a podcast. *Crickets*
9 – Ridicule Them When the Time Calls For It
Once your opponent crosses a clear line, mocking them isn’t harming you because at that point, the actual debate is over.
Of course, it will never help you convince your opponent of anything, but who cares? That ship sailed a long time ago anyway.
It will provide entertainment for those listening or watching.
10 – Never Make It About Winning
This. This is the one where people mis-characterize me. I don’t care about winning the debate. I am confident enough in myself to admit defeat.
I debate because it is fun. I debate to hopefully sway just one person, even if it isn’t the person I am talking directly to. Whether on social, a podcast or with friends, it is fun.
At the end of the day, if someone goes over on me in a debate, good for them. They were better prepared than me. I’ve heard how relentless I am when it comes to debating. Well, yeah. I am good at it. I’m also passionate about most of the topics I discuss and I don’t quit.
That doesn’t mean I have a superiority complex or think I am smarter than the next, which I’ve heard from more than one person as well. I just believe if you are willing to put your name to an opinion, then you should be ready, willing and able to defend that opinion.