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Ayesha's avatar

I need good tips to improve upon my debating skills?

Asked by Ayesha (6028 points ) January 16th, 2012

I’m taking part in a Model United Nations event that is being hosted in school. I’ve been allotted my country. We’ll be discussing current affairs, and the two topics that’ll be holding up the debating of the committee. If you have any prior experience in debate, could you please provide me with some advice on improving on my skills, and my confidence.
I’m not a debater. I’ve only been part of such an event once before, I need some good tips. Thank you.

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12 Answers

Judi's avatar

I went to a great Jr High and I was in a debate class for social studies. It was a long time ago, but I can tell you the most valuable thing to me, was when I was assigned to argue a position I didn’t believe in. Being able to see the other side of an argument, understanding its strengths and weaknesses, helps you to plan your strategy for your argument.
The post poignant argument was when a friend, an avid animal lover had to argue FOR euthanasia. She cried when she pulled that card because she was so passionately against it.
By the time she did her debate, she actually had changed, or at least softened her stance. She was able to argue that in cases of severe suffering of animals euthanasia was the most humane thing to do. This was a position she never would have considered before because she was so focused (as jr high girls tend to be) on her hatred of anyone who would kill an animal. She won.

digitalimpression's avatar

@Ayesha Well, you won’t have any trouble getting debate advice here on fluther, that’s for sure! =)

I’ve done some debating in the past (which is probably why I’m sick of it). The best things to have in order to “win” the debate are cold hard facts, and rock solid confidence. A good knowledge of fallacies can come in handy to embarrass the opposition and lend creedence to your own arguments.

Good luck!

everephebe's avatar

Use fluther it’s great for building debate skills. Just because you’ve “only been part of such an event once before,” does not mean you are “not a debater.” A little practice is all you need. And a healthy knowledge of your nation’s issues of course will be quite helpful, so you can bring your nation’s perspective to the table. Be logical when needed and passionate when needed.

auhsojsa's avatar

Debate 101. You said you’re not a debater. Don’t separate yourself from that, embrace it. You are one now.

Judi's avatar

Another tip: Know the rules. Is this a real debate with a point system, or is the judging done based on someone’s opinion? If it has a point system, learn it and know how to use it to you’re advantage. That’s how our 7th grade team beat the 9th grade team. It reminded me of boxing.

CWOTUS's avatar

Get used to defending positions you don’t agree with. And by that I mean not erecting “straw man” arguments that are easily dismissed, but understanding the real reasons that people have ideas that are different from your own.

For example, if you’re a political liberal, take the time and trouble to understand why conservatives (and libertarians) believe differently from you, and be able to articulate their arguments – even if “deep inside” you don’t agree with the positions.

This was all pretty easy for me, I guess, because I grew up with parents who were willing, able and patient enough to debate nearly any assertion I would make. “How do you know that?” “What are the facts that support your position?” “Have you considered [opposing arguments and facts]?” and so on.

It helps if you think of an argument as a building. You have to prepare a foundation of facts in the real world before your structure can take shape, and the words you use are bricks and mortar to support the structure. Keep looking over that structure for breaks, wherever they occur: ambiguity in meaning; problems in sentence structure; contradictory statements; statements with no support, etc.

zenvelo's avatar

I like @CWOTUS general direction: prepare your arguments, and then take the other side to learn what the contra arguments will be. Look for the weaknesses in your side, and then prepare to either deflect them, or to show they are minor.

Debate teaches us to look at all sides of an issue.

marinelife's avatar

1. Organize your thoughts on 3×5 cards.
2. practice making your points in front of a mirror until you are comfortable.
3. Stay calm. Don’t lose your temper or get too excited.

PhiNotPi's avatar

Point out inconsistencies and one-sidedness in your opponent’s argument. This can be particularly devastating because it destroys the credibility of your opponent. You could also turn your opponent’s accusations against him. If he accuses your side of anything, demonstrate how his side is no better in that respect.

Don’t claim perfection. People who claim to be completely and totally correct can lose because this makes their argument seem unrealistic. Admit cases where your argument might have some weakness, but then point out how this weakness is minor, and then point out a weakness in your opponent’s argument.

You need ammunition in the form of resources that back you up. Whenever they try to call your argument completely wrong and incorrect, just bring up another credible source that says the same thing that you are saying. Instead of the opponent calling you wrong, he is now calling all of your sources wrong. This tactic is very helpful when you are very confident in the correctness of your argument and have a lot of sources. Make sure that you do a lot of research before the debate.

Know your opponent’s reasoning. If you know the logic that he is using to come up with his argument, you can directly attack his argument at its foundation. You can point out where he is wrong and convince him by explaining your logic. Just arguing your point over and over again cannot win against a person who believes in the correctness of his logic, since you aren’t actually pointing out where his logic is wrong. If you can get him to see where your logic may be more reasonable than his, he will back off his claims.

Believe in your argument. Even if you wouldn’t normally believe in your argument, you have to put that aside in your mind. Those who are able to truly trick themselves into believing in their argument are often the ones who win. A confident person will defend better and be able to find loopholes in the other person’s argument. There is not much to explain, but this is possibly one of the most important things on this list.

Don’t go into defensive mode. When the other person’s attacks are strong, don’t start saying things such as “yeah, well, your side is…” This is basically admitting your defeat. Another thing to avoid is simply saying things along the lines of “no it’s not” without any claims or evidence to back you up. This really does nothing to stop or disprove the opponent’s attacks on your position. It also allows the argument to center around the flaws of your side, which is never a good thing.

Go on the offense. Say things along the lines of “This is wrong with your argument, and here is why”. The most important part is the “why” because it turns your attack into something that is much more credible and powerful. Now, instead of simply saying that you are wrong in order to dispel the attack, your opponent must prove that your “why” is wrong. This focuses the argument on what is wrong with your opponent’s point of view. Make sure that your opponent always brings up credible facts for his defense. Try and make him go into the defensive mode described above, which causes him to basically admit defeat. Whatever you do, always have a reasoning behind your attack. Not having one reduces your credibility and makes it easier for the opponent to shift the argument back over to you.

Don’t make claims you can’t back up. The moment your opponent is able to prove something about your argument is downright wrong, the debate is much, much harder because you are already known to have been incorrect. This causes people to question every other claim that you have made, which makes all of your offense and defense much harder. Make sure that you point out whenever your opponent does this, as it will help you a lot. Being able to back up your claims and point out where your opponent can’t is another reason that you should do research before the debate.

DrBill's avatar

Passion, no matter what side you take be Passionate about it.

In college, I had to do a debate on abortion. I did the assignment twice, once as pro-life, once as pro-choice. I won both debates, because I had passion in my deliveries.

auhsojsa's avatar

If you have a lot of time, try buying a Philosophy & Logic book. It took me a good 3 months to grasp the concepts and exercise correctly. Also is there a list of topics you’re debating? Store some facts/statistics in your pockets. As DrBill has said, confidence/passion will win a crowd over. Rehearse in front of your mirror. Everyone experiences nervousness, it won’t be just you, it’s how you battle it will make the difference. Move freely stay loose, move your hands don’t lock your knees, keep them slightly bent, don’t stutter cite examples after every point.

Ayesha's avatar

Thank you so much for your answers. I really appreciate them. I’ve been given some excellent advice. I’ll work on it. Thank you!

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