Monday, July 16, 2012

Am I right?

Anyone who knows me at all has commented on the fact that I am often difficult to "debate" with. Sometimes it's framed in a way that sounds like, "You are good with words" or "You certainly have strong opinions", but I know that the subtext is generally always "Wow, you really always have to be right, don't you?". Well, first of all, I think like most of the rest of the world, yeah, I like to be "right", or at least feel like I am educated in what I am speaking about. However, I think there's a difference in "always having to be right" and being a good debater, and I'll try to explain. If you don't agree, well, you're probably wrong anyway ;)

When a topic for debate arises, the most important factor involved is knowledge, in my "expert" opinion. Many debaters will tell you that having all the facts isn't always really necessary if you can instead find a way to employ "strategic agreement" or appear empathetic, while also systematically disarming them with well spoken words, finely crafted sentences and a pleasant but authoritative demeanor. I agree that all of those are vital pieces of the puzzle, but without facts and ways to substantiate those facts, eventually you're going to get shredded by someone who understands the topic better than you do, or just has the requisite evidence to "prove" their case. Of course, there are other types of debates that involve more objective subject matter like music, the arts, etc where facts don't necessarily come into play as deeply, but if you don't have the knowledge base of someone that has listened to, experienced and spoken about various types of music/art then you're already working from a disadvantaged position because even your objective opinions don't include all the variables. Anyway, I've gotten a little off topic here so let me try to reconnect to my point...

I think many of us take pleasure in feeling smarter than others, and there's nothing essentially wrong with that(as it means you take education and self-improvement seriously and shows you likely have an open mind which is a cornerstone of learning) unless your greater knowledge or desire to debate involves some kind of masochistic motive to ridicule and devalue the person you're debating with. I can only speak for myself, and certainly with regards to me that is NEVER the case, though I know some may feel differently. I think when you're debating with someone, especially if they feel your knowledge may be a little stronger and more vast, there's a tendency to feel attacked and patronized and if you're debating with a loved one, friend or child it's important to keep that in mind. I know in the past I have always tried to ask myself "Is 'winning' this argument worth the expense of hurting the other person's feelings?", and lately I think I have gotten away from that a bit. I know I have argued of late and not only been told but felt that that I was being a bit of a bully, when in act my goal was to be nothing of the sort. Instead the original plan was to inspire and enlighten, but halfway in I hear myself forcing my opinion or facts down their throat, and then the power of my argument is already lost, because they have closed down. So what's the point there? The original goal of getting them to see things from your perspective is lost, because the only thing they're seeing is that you're a big meanie and know it all that just wants to try and make them feel stupid. I know for a fact I have put people in that position, and I have been in it myself, and it never feels good.

As I get older and try to improve the relationships in my life, nurture what is good and offer positive and honest thoughts on what is not, I strive to be the type of communicator and "debater" that doesn't always have to be right. Instead, I want to be confident in my facts and opinions and discuss them in a respectful manner and foster an environment of communication that's lively, informed and pleasant. It can be hard to do depending on the personality type you are dealing with, but any good debater will tell you it's important to keep a consistent pace and mood while speaking, regardless of the demeanor of your opponent. I suppose one of the first things I need to do, however, on my continued to road to self improvement, is not think of everyone I have a "discussion" with as an opponent. I enjoy being a skilled debater and I think those that have said "You love to hear yourself talk" may be right, but going forward I really hope to be the kind of person that converses about differing opinions using logic, facts and passion, but not just because of the mild high that comes from "winning" any of these things. I'm so good at so many other things, I suppose I can let a few of the debates go from time to time. My next post will be about lacking self confidence, which of course I know nothing about. Stay tuned! ;)


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