I have always loved a debate and as long as it is done in the spirit of debate rather than an argument, it is something which I absolutely relish. The reason behind why I love debating goes back to my days at Hartford, when I met another young debater in the university called Andrew Curran Wesleyan. Andrew could, and still can, debate just about any subject and he had a wonderful ability to take either side and argue strongly as though it was a lawsuit. What’s more, if he ever lost a debate there would be no complaint and the only retaliation that you would see was the strength of his next debate, when he would leave you looking rather foolish. Fast forward 20 years and my good friend is now a professor ion New Haven, who likes to instill the spirit of debate in his students. I asked Andrew recently to help me with this article about how to be a great debater, and he was kind enough to send me an email with some top tips that I wanted to share with you.
Knowing Your Stuff
At the very heart of any great debate is knowledge, Andrew stresses this very much indeed and says that one must be knowledgable on the subject before anything else. In my experience, Andrew had a wonderful work ethic and seemed to absorb information very quickly, this was exactly why he was able to take either side of the argument.
Andrew also stresses the importance of understanding what the other person is going to say during a debate, so that a retort can be readied. Andrew taught me how important a comeback was when debating and just how powerful it could be when destabilizing an opponent. Andrew would spend just as much time learning the other side of the argument to his own so that he could easily formulate a response when the opponent would bring up a certain point.
Andrew speaks ardently about just how much different it makes if you are a public speaker with power and who can hold attention. The example which he gives is that if a great public speaker with no knowledge, came up against a non-public speaker with bags of knowledge, the audience would likely decide on the public speaker as being the winner of the debate, simply because that man or woman was more convincing. Practicing the art of public speaking is key to winning debates.
The reason why Andrew is now a professor is for advice such as this, the ability to learn from every debate which you may take part in. Andrew didn’t win all of his debates in university but he did always take something away from the debates in which he lost, and even in those that he won. There is always something to learn from a debate, win, lose or draw!