How Can We Encourage Debate?

Having a healthy, respectful, robust debate takes more than simply having an opinion and a loud voice. If I make a list of what is needed to have a good dialogue, what would that list contain?

In an era of polarized opinions on a number of topics including politics, religion, health care, gun control, immigration, abortion, and several other issues, how can we have a debate in which opposing sides actually listen to each other?

How can we encourage debate?

Related questions: How can we turn ideas into actions? What is necessary to change your mind? When is doubt helpful? How do you know who to trust?

4 thoughts on “How Can We Encourage Debate?”

  1. These things are easier said than done. But I can speak from experience that using these approaches can work. I’ve recently gotten into spirited (but truly engaging) dialogues with people I consider friends about gun control, faith versus atheism, and healthcare.

    Above all, show and demonstrate respect. Probe disagreement as something you don’t understand rather than irreconcilable differences. From the beginning, state that you may not ever reach agreement, and that will likely be okay if the true intent is to understand the person and their viewpoints more.

    In listening to the other side:
    – Seek to understand before trying to be understood.
    – Don’t assume that the other’s opposing viewpoint makes them a bad person.
    – Ask questions about points that truly perplex you … and then listen for the answer. That is, listen gently.
    – Repeat what whomever your debating with has said; and, if you don’t understand, ask them to explain more or make the points in a different way.

    In making your points:
    – Show some initiative by not just parroting the points that never encourage respectful conversation.
    – Use personal experience and your values to explain why what you believe is important to you.
    – Actually work to be understood.
    – Don’t shout, whether it be in person or in forms that are read that way on whatever social media platform you are on.

  2. I like Michael’s feedback. My concern is providing such defensive tools to a large enough part of the population.

    A free society should safeguard itself by including a debate/critical-thinking curriculum somewhere in its mandatory schooling in addition to the basic Readin’, Ritin’, and Rithmetic.

    Seems important for the continuance of a free nation.

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