In the age of blogging and social media, everyone wants to share their opinion. However, it has become abundantly clear to me that many people simply do not or cannot argue a point in a meaningful way. As a blogger for The Huffington Post and an educator that enjoys pushing the boundaries of traditional thinking, I get my fair share of people who disagree with my stand on a topic. I love those people because that helps me grow and gives me an opportunity to hear valid points opposing my position. I am not so closed minded to think that at times, I may be wrong (ask my wife, she tells me I am wrong quite often).
But, if you are going to disagree or debate a blog post, Facebook post or any of the other mediums we now have to share our opinions, there is a wrong way and a right way to present your ideas. I hope these 5 points will help you share your ideas in a more meaningful way. If you do not like these ideas, share your own ideas below.
1. Argue the point, not the person.
Someone states their opinion and it makes your blood curdle. You immediately want to attach this person. Honestly, do you think this person cares what you think of them? Do you think that others in the line of comments really care what you think of this person? That is not a way to win an argument or even how to defend your position. If you want to score points, you have to hit where it counts and that is against their position. Argue why their point is wrong and your point is right. Anything less and you are actually giving them ammunition to use against you. For example, I had a person start to attack me because of my views on the importance of early childhood education. This person started to attack me personally and was saying what an awful educator I must be if I felt that way and so forth and so on. This took me about two minutes to come up with my response: "You apparently did not learn everything you needed to know in Kindergarten. Thank you for proving my point". You must always argue the point not the person.
2. Use data and research as much as you can.
If you read a post and disagree, before you respond, do a little research. Maybe you can find some data that supports your position. Maybe you can find an article that you can quote in your response. Again, a debate is about an idea. You can attack the idea with data, statistics and research. Your opinion will be supported by using data that has been confirmed as valid.
3. Don't put words in your opponent's mouth.
When you are quoting your opponent while using their blog post or Facebook post, use the statement as it was intended to be used. Do not try to fabricate what the meaning of a sentence was or add/subtract words to suit your needs. Again, that just leaves the door open for you to be ridiculed. All your opponent has to do is to show your error and people will negate any of the previous good points you may have made. Your opinion will not be trusted if you do not stress accuracy.
4. Don't go on a tangent
This is actually a strategy that can be reversed and used against your opponent. But be careful because it can backfire very easily. When you present your argument, you want it to be organized and specific to your point. You do not want people to become confused after reading your post. You want to persuade people to take your side, not confuse them and push them away. If you stay focused on your topic and continue to make valid points, it will make it difficult for your opponent to debate your position.
5. Stay positive, polite, and professional
Everyone who is reading your debate is judging you and your opponent. When people start to rant and go off on tangents or attack the other person, the audience quickly loses interest. No one wants to back the person that turns rude, or becomes mean-spirited. They want to follow the professional, because they are professional. They want to follow the person who is positive and polite through the entire debate.
In the end, taking the higher, more professional ground, will always be the better decision.