People think you can’t read someone’s tone through text.
This is absolutely false.
You can definitely understand tonality in text. And the way you do it is through context.
Not only can you detect tone, but you can also detect emotion, since emotion is the primary force that produces tone.
Step 1: Identify emotion.
What does this have to do with winning a debate?
It’s very simple: an emotional person will almost always demonstrate their foolishness. Emotionally driven opinions are the bane of a constructive debate.
So by being able to identify if someone is emotional, you will automatically put yourself ahead in the debate.
Once you identify that someone is emotional, winning a debate becomes very easy provided that you can control your own emotions.
It’s not the emotions themselves that turn people into fools, but rather their inability to control them.
And when someone is unable to control their emotions, their only recourse is to attempt to trigger a loss of emotional control in their competitor.
This is why when people are losing a debate (or feel insecure in their opinion), they almost always resort to name calling and labeling.
Character defamation is the number one defense against a poorly constructed argument. Labels such as “racist,” “sexist,” “idiot,” “blowhard,” and even “privileged”are key indicators that someone is A) insecure in the formulation of their opinions, and B) subject to a loss of emotional control.
Step 2: Don’t react.
This seems pretty obvious, but I made this its own step for a reason: it’s insanely hard.
Read: it’s insanely hard.
The hardest thing you can do is remain calm. If you can’t remain calm, you lose.
At the very least, don’t show your emotion. Harness it. Control it. Don’t let it out. Use it as fuel for your logical mind.
The way that I do this is by harnessing all of my emotion into a mantra: “Be calm and crush this mother fucker.”
I’ll be honest, I have not yet learned how to “not be angry.” But so far this is okay because I have learned to harness my anger. And I’m entirely sure that anger is a bad thing if you know how to harness it.
Just remember not to react. When you carelessly react, you will lose every single time.
Step 3: Transmute emotion.
Whenever I’m involved in a situation where someone is holding onto destructive beliefs, my tendency is to become extremely angry. But whenever I interface with them, I realize that expressing this anger will not help anyone.
Instead, what I do is I pull it in. I transform my anger into laser sharp, burning passion. And then I put it on a low simmer to let it burn calmly and controlled.
The result is a fiery ball of anger that makes my entire body tingle, every cell burning with laser focus and never-ending intensity.
Your process might look different than this. But you must find a way to transmute your desire to react emotionally into a desire to keep your shit together and do what is going to be best for yourself, your opponent, and everyone else involved.
Step 4: It’s not all about you.
The title of this article is somewhat misleading because it implies that the end goal of winning an argument is to prove that you’re right.
This is incorrect. And it is an ego-based ambition.
The real reason you want to win an argument is to propagate the truth.
Now, you might know the truth…or you may simply *think* you know the truth.
Either way, it doesn’t matter.
Your goal in every argument should be to pull out the truth (or any truth) that makes the world a better place.
You might know this…but your opinions are just as fallible as your opponents.
Your goal is not to be right. Your goal is to do right.
And sometimes this means changing your views mid-debate.
Never be afraid to learn new insights and perspectives.
And if your goal is only to formulate truths that make the world a better place, then you can never truly lose.
This is why it is important to have an investigative mentality in every debate, whether you already have your own opinions or not.
Step 5: Ask questions.
Perhaps one of the most famous and exceptional debaters of all time was Socrates. He used what is known as the ‘Socratic Method,’ which is a method of debating in which your goal is to stimulate interesting discussion and encourage critical thinking.
By doing this, you end up discovering new ideas and revealing once-hidden assumptions.
Naturally, now that there is more information and perspective available, all participants in the debate now have the ability to formulate stronger opinions and refine their arguments accordingly.
At no point in his Method is Socrates trying to “win.” But, as a result of his approach, he never loses.
The key to this strategy is to not see your “opponent” as opposing you. Because they’re not. They have their opinions, which granted may differ from yours…but differing does not necessarily mean opposing.
In fact, differing opinions are the key to human transformation. Without differences, people resort to the psychological phenomenon known as group-think, in which ideas are merely passively accepted without assessing the true effects of those ideas. Group-think is perhaps one of the most dangerous tendencies in our species. Group-think is what allowed genocides like the holocaust to happen.
Socrates recognized this. And he also recognized the likelihood of any individual’s tendency –including his own — to harbor harmful opinions.
It is for this reason that his method of debate was centered around asking questions.
But not just any questions…the Socratic Method is specifically cooperative in nature.
It’s not very Socratic to say something like, “Where did you get that dumb idea?” or “What’s wrong with you?”
Technically, these are questions. But they are not cooperative questions.
Step 6: Cooperate.
It’s extremely difficult to cooperate with someone who harbors an opinion that you perceive to be destructive.
I don’t know exactly what to say about this, other than good luck.
At times, I try to remind myself that I don’t know everything and that the things I “do know” are limited to my extraordinarily tiny fragment of experiential understanding.
I often humor my limited comprehension of everything by asking myself difficult questions such as…
- “What if violence is actually a good thing?”
- “Is it possible that we need evil in the world?”
- “How can I know for sure what’s bad and what’s good?”
Questions like these tend to trigger in me a response to be open-minded, which works well to engage your cooperative mindset.
In other words, once you realize that any and all of your assumptions could be incorrect, it is much easier to see your opponent as a fellow seeker who is working with an entirely different set of data than you are.
Step 7: Become One.
Ok this might sound a little fruity…but fruit is delicious, so hear me out.
Once you’ve harnessed your own emotion, transcended your own ego, and redefined the purpose of any argument, you can now enter the final phase which is to become One with your opponent.
Every great and successful debate hinges on what I like to call, “the dance.”
No argument has ever been won by firing proverbial missiles at one another. Sure, one side might destroy the other side…but this is not constructive, it is merely destructive.
Any fool can break shit. But it takes a masterful craftsman to build something.
This is how you must see yourself in a debate.
Your goal is to seek understanding. This starts by becoming One with your opponent by seeking to understand your opponent.
You will never, ever, never, ever, never, ever get anywhere by trying to convince your opponent.
In fact, studies have shown that when people’s opinions are confronted, their primal defense mechanisms become triggered…which actually results in a stronger, more reinforced version of their opinion.
This is crazy to me and it seems like a faulty adaptation. Nevertheless, when you demonstrate to your opponent that you are against him, rather than with him, you will only ever strengthen their resolve and further solidify their opinion.
And we all know how dangerous a firm opinion can be.
So when you’re in a debate, first seek to understand your opponent and learn their perspective. It is only from this position that you will be able to stimulate the cultivation of new ideas in him as well as within yourself.
Instead of fighting your opponent, learn his way in the world. Understand his dance moves. And then join him on the floor.
Once every member of the debate has united in the dance, then we can arrive at brilliant conclusions.
Invite your opponent to join you in the pursuit of new perspective. It is an invitation that can rarely be rejected. After all, who in their right mind would refuse the invitation to seek greater truths for the betterment of all things?
If appropriate, further invite your opponent to consider the fact that their perspective, just as your own, might be limited. It would take a tremendous amount of foolishness for someone to reject the possibility that they might be wrong.
Opinions can always be refined and perspectives can always be deepened. It is very difficult for someone to disagree with this.
If you follow the advice in this article correctly, you will never find yourself on the losing end of any debate. You will only ever accomplish either (or both) of these two things:
- Improve your opponent’s opinion.
- Improve your own opinion.
Regardless of the outcome, be sure to thank your opponent for his/her perspective, for you have worked together to improve the condition of the planet.