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Calm and Honest

Mature discussions or debates can and do occasionally devolve into a name-calling slug fest. Both parties trying their best to one-up their opponent. At this point, nobody wins.

You have to remain calm in an sincere debate where you’re trying to reason with someone or come to some middle ground. Immediately starting with the name calling and yelling and huffing and hawing isn’t productive. Interrupting or laughing or being sarcastic or condescending isn’t helpful either. Don’t get me started with eye rolls. If you want to learn something or be able to teach something, you have to assume your opponent also has a desire to do the same. If you start with assuming your opponent is hostile, you already begin in a defensive posture and will respond accordingly. So stay calm and assume the best. If you’re asked a question, instead of searching for a hidden meaning, treat the question like it’s a sincere attempt gain information. Answer it.

Which leads to the next issue, there has to be honesty. You have to be honest in your position and you have to honestly understand your opponents position. If you mischaracterize or distort your opponents opinion, and then argue with that, you’re arguing with strawmen. You’re being dishonest in the debate and it does nobody any good.

Recently I responded to a social media post where someone made a mischaracterization about the recent riots in Washington DC. This person claimed that “…storming the Capitol building because your candidate lost…” was illegitimate. I agree with that assessment. If you’re rioting because your candidate or team or whatever lost, you’re out of your mind. Luckily I think this person just made a simple mistake in articulating the reason, but it works well enough to make my point.

The riots didn’t occur because a particular political candidate lost. If the people rioting believed that the election was fair, there would not have been a riot. The problem is they believed the election was stolen and that the government itself was complicit in the fraud. Whether the election was stolen or not is another debate, but it’s one they believe they weren’t given. So, they decided to storm the Capitol and disrupt the government for a few hours.

Whether you believe that to be a legitimate reason to storm the Capitol is also debatable, but mischaracterizing the reason is certainly dishonest, although in this case it was accidental dishonestly.

If you debate me, I will assume you have the best intentions and I’d like you to assume the same about me. If I mischaracterize your position, it’s an honest mistake. If you’re a big jerk, and I start calling you names while mischaracterizing your position, well, then I’m just angry.

I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and you give that to me. If we start there, then we can make progress.

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