Debate is more than expressing your opinion

A while ago, one of the three preliminary rounds of the Flemish Debating Contest took place. With my Debatman and NCZ instructors as a loyal coach, I threw myself into the fray.

You might think I’m using this description as nothing more than a sense of humor, but I’m very serious. pun intended. I’ve been having discussions as long as I can talk, and as soon as I knew what the discussion was, I made it my hobby too, with slight protest from my unsuspecting classmates.

Just as in a real battle, the inner Neanderthal appears. And suddenly your teammates become your brothers, and your opponents are your enemy. Adrenaline takes over, and you hold your paddle in the shape of your favorite filler word or a punch in the stomach.

I wouldn’t immediately consider myself a competitor, but that’s only because I’m usually not good at winning. In fact, I always go for first prize, although that’s nothing more than first place in the Kahoot test. Sometimes, even during basketball, I tend to challenge half the class, even though I’m as good at handling the ball as I am with a certain integration.

The fact that I can now use all my competitive edge to compete with people who have the same passion for facts, logic and the power of language is a relief.

A few weeks ago we were informed of the first statement. The other two positions were due to be announced on the same day. This also applies to positions we advocate for specific proposals.

This means that we always had to be fully prepared for both positions. It felt like working on these opinions was like playing chess against yourself. You always know what the other is trying to do, and you have to find a way to get over it anyway.

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The fact that we had to be prepared for both points of view also had a positive effect: you learn to see the situation from the opponent’s point of view. This skill is indispensable in any relationship you enter into your life, from romantic to business relationships. Ideally, in the real world, the goal is not to prove you’re right, but to meet each other. This becomes much smoother if you can put yourself in another place.

During our discussion, we also had to put ourselves in the position of an opponent, albeit for less positive purposes. We’re using our newfound ability here to predict an opponent’s arguments so we can refute them faster.

Besides trying to look inside the opponent’s head, there are plenty of other tactics. However, you have to stand firm for it. For example, you can try to distract an opponent by drawing his attention to something out of topic. You can intimidate them with big words, flood them with numbers from studies at prestigious universities. You can also annoy your opponent so that they become so blinded by their annoyance that they start making rash decisions.

However, you should not only consider the discount. In the end, the jury will decide, so you have to keep it in mind all the time. It is tempting to forget the whole world and plunge into the storm of words. This was almost the end of our first debate, luckily our free stage saved us. We assumed the jury always knew what we were talking about, and we forgot that not everyone throws themselves into studies of climate and economics in their spare time.

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Discussion is more than giving your opinion and proving it with arguments. It is art, sport, breathing and above all just a fun and expanding activity ممتع. And if we don’t win the competition, we at least now know how to argue with the jury.

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