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lovingpartner's avatar

If you are in a debate, how to force yourself to be open-minded?

Asked by lovingpartner (68 points ) January 3rd, 2013

What if after the toss coin, the motion is something you need to oppose, but in reality you support. How do you that? How to not be out of words? How to be open to this?

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7 Answers

DrBill's avatar

Being open minded is the ability to consider other options, not necessarily accepting them. I have ideas I am convinced of, but I will still listen and consider other sides or possibilities. My original thoughts are usually right, but there are some I have changed position on due to someone presenting convincing evidence.

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tom_g's avatar

Not a huge fan of the term “open-minded”, but I find these techniques to be helpful.

1. Determine the conditions/arguments that would cause you to change your mind. In other words, make sure you are aware of the variables that you are and should be discussing. If you are in an argument about whether or not to put a traffic light at a particular intersection, and you are arguing against it, outline what it would take for your to support it. It’s frustrating as hell to address someone’s arguments only for them to still oppose it and not tell you why.

2. Try to come up with stronger arguments against your argument. Your “opponent” might not be providing the strongest arguments. Provide them to your opponent. Don’t just keep quiet and hope that your opponent misses them.

CWOTUS's avatar

I agree with @tom_g (about this post, at least).

What you want to strive for when you’re arguing based on the toss of a coin (meaning you don’t get to choose which side to argue for) is “advocacy”. In other words, you specifically do not want to be open-minded; you need to advocate for a position, and it very well may not be a position that you agree with.

This is what lawyers do every day.

It’s not that “lawyers love bad people” in order to defend them, but they have to advocate for them. They stand for the principle that even people accused of awful crimes should have their own rights defended and their own positions – which may be at polar opposites from how the attorney actually feels about his client – put forward with the best argument possible.

So, if you have to defend a position that you don’t necessarily agree with, you have to study the arguments that have been made for that side and work to improve them with logic, facts and the clearest speech that you can muster. Where it might pay to be open-minded is to study the problem from the point of view that you’re advocating for, and see if there’s something that you may have been closed to in the past, simply because you didn’t pay attention to it before, with your mind made up against it.

wundayatta's avatar

You do this through preparation. Debaters, in my day, carried around giant boxes full of cards that contained research facts. They organized them under a variety of topics relevant to the debate topic. When I was a debater, it was something like, “Resolved, the Federal government should pay for education in the US.” Something like that.

I think I argued in the affirmative. If I had been more advanced, I would have been required to argue on either side of the issue, and I wouldn’t have known which side I had until just before the debate started.

It is thorough preparation that enables you to take either side in a debate and do them equally well. You need to know all the issues and come up with as many arguments as you can, based on reputable sources. You write them all down on cards, and pull them up as you need them.

It makes me wonder what debating is like now. Are you allowed to use computers? Can you actually research during a debate by going online? That would be dangerous, I think. Better to prepare with what you already know, then to try to find new information in a few seconds. Although it could be useful to know a full quote when your opponent has chosen a carefully edited section for presentation.

Be prepared with lots of facts. Practice using those facts on the fly through mock debates. Understand all the arguments and counter-arguments. Prepare yourself to respond instantly. Prepare yourself to respond to a variety of debating tactics, as well. That means you have to know what tactics people use and how you should respond when they use them.

This is like life. Preparation is necessary to do well under live conditions.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.

Practice makes perfect.

Shippy's avatar

I used to be very open minded and saw both sides, lately I realize that if you scream or type like this or pull out a few sociology books makes you sound awful clever. But yeah, screaming loud is better. OR EVEN TYPING LIKE THIS HELPS.

wundayatta's avatar

That’s because people want to know what you really think, @Shippy. God help them! ;-)

Pachy's avatar

I can and do keep an open mind as long as the other person isn’t screaming at me, calling me or my ideas stupid, discounting my feelings, or unwilling to even entertain my ideas and beliefs. And this is both in person and online.

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