How Not to Address (Others in Debate)

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Everyone has opinions.  Most everyone things their opinions are correct and/ or better than those of folks who feel otherwise. Some people feel so strongly about their positions on certain topics that they engage folks who believe otherwise in discussion.  There is nothing wrong with healthy debate.  It’s one of our rights as US citizens.  However,  like anything else, there is a right way and a wrong way to argue.  This is especially true when this debate takes place online instead of face to face.

If you are the type of person who gets into these discussions, and perhaps even enjoys it, here are a few tips on what NOT to do to make your point effectively:

#1 Name calling.  This should be obvious, but if you refer to folks who disagree with you in a derogatory way you aren’t going to change anyone’s mind.

#2 Profanity.  Self explanatory.

#3 Confusing facts with opinion.  Things like dates, temperatures, the laws of nature, and anything easily observable (i.e. that is an apple, that is a cloud, I am 45 years old) are facts.  The role of government in health care, the benefits of net neutrality, whether cats are better than dogs, etc. are opinions.  Interpretations of written documents – such as the Bible or the US Constitution – are opinions.  Confusing the two makes you look at best self-important and at worst ignorant.

#4 Broad generalizations based on very limited information.  Technically this falls under #3 but i so common that it warrants being addressed directly.   Examples include: I met a Muslim once who was rude to me, so all Muslims are bad people, my friend used Product X and likes it,  therefore Product X is the best product ever made, and anything based on a celebrity endorsement.

#5 Poor choice of source material.  The internet allows anyone to publish anything.  Just because you found a website that supports your claim doesn’t make you right.  I could, if i so chose, find websites to support claims that the Earth is flat, there is a master race of lizard people controlling the world’s governments, Michelle Obama is actually a man, fairies are real, or just about anything else you can imagine, in spite of all of those things being obviously false.

I strongly support our right to free and public debate.  But let’s do it respectfully, intelligently, and properly, OK?

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