Don’t Argue, Debate instead.

When you are disgruntled, it is very easy to make a bad situation into a disastrous situation by allowing anger to do all of the talking.  This I find, especially in election years, to be a new prevalent way to handle disagreements.  It is destructive to healthy discourse.  This is why I propose here to use Debate, not Argument.


Argument can and often does involve two practices destined to counter the desired outcome of dispute: Ad Hominem and Non Sequitur.  Structured Debate steers clear of Ad Hominem and Non Sequitur.

  • Ad Hominem is a personal attack against a person or their character.  Things like “You are stupid” or “You are being ridiculous”.  When you attack the person, they become unwilling to listen to your complaint and reasons for that complaint.  This is very easy to do.  When you are frustrated it is easy to assume that the person with whom you have issue is in fact the problem itself.  This is a trap that leads to bad resolutions.
  • Non Sequitur, in this case is an illogical argument, one that the conclusion does not follow from its premise.  I will extend this to including an unrelated statement in your rebuttal.  Such as, “I take issue with the statement that I don’t help out around the house.  I remember a time when you cursed at me.” Or, “I don’t want to quit smoking.  You forgot last year to pick up Johnny from soccer practice.”  The dispute should be focused on one issue at a time.

So what does Debate do better than Argument?  Debate attacks the issue, not the person.  The issue and its resolution are the only things on the table.  It is designed to give everyone a voice without interruption.  Here’s how.

  1. Each party starts with an opening statement, focusing on a single issue.  We will create one here:  The issue is distribution of workload and unequal effort between two co-workers.  Each co-worker has two minutes to state their position.  They have to focus their speech to attack the issue and not the person and no other issue may be brought up.
  2. After each has had a few to several minutes to state their positions, they may offer a short rebuttal to their opponent’s statement.  Opponent A can state that Opponent B’s statement is not accurate in that it did not include Opponent A’s action on this or that day or whatever.  They should stick to one perceived fallacy per rebuttal.  The rebutter’s words should be only taking issue with the words their opponent spoke, not the opponent themselves.
  3. After a structured round of rebuttals, close the issue.  Take into account what each has said.  Resolve the issue calmly and constructively by taking into account the other person’s point of view.  If a moderator need be present for the debate, then one should be appointed prior to the debate.  Someone who might be able to sort through each debater’s ideas and issues to help the two opponents see eye to eye.

By avoiding personal attacks and bringing up the past, many more relationships would stay strong and healthy.  Once each person in the relationship understands the process, they can moderate themselves and extend this to all of the relationships in their lives.

About Nathan

Hi! I am Nathan! So why am I here? That is my main question. I am fascinated by the current wave of science meeting with the philosophical questions throughout history. I am a Taoist and a disorganized dreamer who makes up new words to describe states of being and thought processes. I love to bring to you these simple yet powerful little inspirations and truths. I believe that each one of us is infinitely important and we are all connected. As Carl Sagan put it, “We are a way for the Cosmos to know itself.” We might be all connected, but you are still you. It is your perceptions that shape your reality. So join me in changing perceptions!

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