Debate vs. Argument: Improving Upon the Silence

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I understand that putting my thoughts and opinions “out there” in the world invites the (possibly opposing) thoughts and opinions of others. Totally fine. What bothers me is when opposers refuse to consider that any viewpoint or lifestyle that differs from their own is even possible. They’re not interested in a healthy debate, all they want is an argument. They are the smartest person in the room, even if they don’t quite have their facts straight. And even when they’re proven wrong, they don’t posses the grace to simply acknowledge their mistake. Frankly, it’s exhausting.

Over the past few years, I’ve been trying to learn to be a better communicator. I listen to what other people are saying. If I don’t agree, I make sure they know at least that I hear what they’ve said before I respond…that I haven’t just been waiting for my chance to speak! I try to not just walk away when the going gets tough. I’ve even gotten pretty good at confronting a problem when it’s still fresh, instead of letting it fester – to try to get to the bottom of it before it gets too big. Not that it always turns out to be a constructive exercise (not everyone is interested in having a two-way conversation, without the appearance of straw men, talking points or ad hominem), but at least it’s a start!

When engaging in a debate with another person, it’s important to remember that they are a person, not simply the viewpoint that you have issue with. Making them look/feel less intelligent then you, especially if what you say is simply your opinion (or factually incorrect), well that only makes you look like a jerk. Now, if you were to approach the situation as a learning/teaching experience (for both sides…yes YOU could learn something!), then you would look like an empathetic person worthy of another’s respect.

People who believe in different things can be friends, as long as there is a live-and-let-live attitude on both sides. Obviously, this is near-impossible in some morally-polar-opposite instances: A staunch pro-lifer probably won’t be hanging out with an abortion clinic employee, for example. But I think about the different views of my friends and how that’s reflected in what they post on Facebook. While I don’t always agree with everything they post, I would never dream of getting into a public argument with them for the sole purpose of making myself look smarter/more righteous. How incredibly ridiculous that would be!

As usual, situations like these are good learning experiences for me. I can’t expect others to behave the way I would, and they certainly are entitled to voice their opinions! I just wish more people would stop and think for a second: “Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it true? Does it improve upon the silence?”

But if not, well I’ve also gotten a lot better at not letting people walk all over me…so if you come at me wanting an argument, expect a debate, not a doormat!

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