Much of debating is an exercise in certainty. You fully inhabit your perspective and come up with the best possible arguments for your side, recruiting the most persuasive evidence for your case. But in the last five minutes before the start of a round, the best debaters do something extraordinary. They turn to a new sheet of paper and come up with the four best arguments for the other side, or they look over their speech through the eyes of an opponent and try to find as many problems as they can. Those are known as “side-switch exercises.”
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The debate world acts as a symbol for what a community built around—not despite—disagreement can be, and harbors knowledge that we can apply in our day-to-day lives to start realizing that future. A future based not around agreeableness, but on good disagreement, which a...
When Bo Seo moved as an eight-year-old from South Korea to Australia, he didn’t speak English. He quickly learned that the hardest part of crossing language lines was adjusting to real-life conversation, and the hardest conversations to adjust to were disagreements. That was where pas...
When you start picking up the strategies and secrets of good debate, every objectionable thing people say seems like an opportunity to quarrel and make a point. To the one holding the hammer, everything seems like a nail. But we know that good conversations and relationships have...
Meeting the RISA Checklist doesn’t guarantee that an argument will go well, but it suggests that there are conditions such that the argument could go well. By being deliberate and not jumping into disagreements out of pride or defensiveness, we can focus on disagreements...
As a kid, Bo Seo used to hate being told to empathize with my classmates because He didn’t know what “empathy” meant. Some described it as a magical, mental connection that spontaneously arises when you look into the eyes of another person. Others described it as a v...
“Side-switch exercises” don’t help you achieve empathy, exactly, because there is no substitute for really hearing where the other side is coming from. But it does create wriggle room. It gives you the sense that there may be another way of viewing this issue. At a time when many...
So, you face a disagreement. Is it:
Before entering into a disagreement, for example, ask yoursel...
“Debate” comes from the Old French word “debatre” (“to fight or contend,”), which in turn comes from the Latin “dis-“ (expressing reversal) + “battere” (to fight).
We must regain confidence and faith in what good arguments can be, realizing...
Imagine arguing that we should stop eating meat because vegetarianism benefits the environment. For that argument to succeed, first you have to show that being vegetarian is, in fact, good for the environment. Otherwise you have no legs to stand on for the claim that hea...
Bo Seo sensed that his differences from his peers, if exposed, could mark him as an outsider and let slip whatever foothold of belonging he had achieved in this new place. That made him resolve to be very agreeable, to smile, to nod, and to keep most of his thoughts to himself. W...
Second, the true question at the core of this argument asks, why should we privilege the health of the environment over personal enjoyment? It’s often that second part that people neglect. It’s not enough to show that you have a point—you have to make it count for the other side. That inv...
An argument is not a random grab bag of thoughts or exclamations. It’s not a repetition of all the things you think about a particular subject. An argument is a tool for changing minds, and it has two basic burdens of proof. First, showing that its main claim is true, and second,...
The opposite of bad disagreement is good disagreement. For most of history, entire groups of people were barred from speaking by virtue of their station in life. Multitudes lacked any platform or capacity to be heard. What we’re doing today—embracing diversity in our com...
“An idea is something that won’t work unless you do.” - Thomas A. Edison
“Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.” - Rumi
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The falsifiability mindset is all about thinking through the implications of beliefs, judgments, and decisions. It’s about curbing our craving for certainty. Adopting this mindset is as easy as picking up a simple practice.
For the decision that you’re making, take ...
In 1894, two clothing salesmen, that also had a side business as songwriters, came up with a novel way to sell the sheet music to "The Little Lost Child."
They hired an electrician to create a series of "magic lantern" slide projections of photos to accompany perfo...
People can recognize confidence in the voice of others, as they can infer nervousness. One can practice breathing exercises and come into the right frame of mind, while making it quieter and more focused.
Believe in yourself and it will show in your speech.
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