5 Reasons You’re Not Winning Debates

 The marketplace of ideas is alive and well online. Any time you post a link or comment, you can expect an explosion of differing opinions, and I cherish these friendly debates.  While I’m always willing to listen to anther’s input, I can’t help but think that Douglas Adams was right: “All opinions are not equal. Some are a very great deal more robust, sophisticated and well supported in logic and argument than others.”

In the world of debates online or otherwise, there are winners and losers. If you’re losing, here are five likely reasons why (which apply to offline discussions as well):

1. Your argument lacks evidence. You can spout your opinion all you want, but when it comes down to convincing someone you’re right, “I said so” just doesn’t cut it. It’s possible you’re basing your argument on your own personal feelings rather than specific principles and empirical evidence. Avoid generalizations. Stick to specific facts that you can cite.

2. Your argument relies on a logical fallacy. Red herring? Ad hominem? Strawman? Even if the other participant(s) can’t specifically name what you’re doing wrong, they’ll know it just doesn’t sound right. Check out this great article, and make sure your argument is sound in its logic.

3. You’re viewing the other participant(s) as the enemy. The other participant(s) are not the personification of the ideas you’re arguing against. Rather, view them as friends seeking truth. Don’t make the argument personal, and keep it friendly. Everyone is more open to the ideas of their friends than the ideas of their enemies.

4. You’ve lost credibility. Often I see people who have difficulty expressing themselves or find they have no real evidence to back their argument. These people turn to cursing and insults. Cursing is the refuge of the inarticulate, and insults make the other participant(s) personally blinded to any truth your argument could potentially have. Avoid both.

5. You’re just plain wrong. Have you considered it? Surely you’re not always right. Maybe you need to step back from the conversation and ask yourself, “Could I be wrong here?” There’s nothing wrong with changing your opinion. If someone else is showing consistent evidence to convincingly convey their point, consider that perhaps they could be right. If you’re not willing to look at the evidence, then why are you even debating someone?

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