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How to improve your debating tactics. Debating Tips & Tricks.

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posted on Dec, 24 2006 @ 01:22 PM
This thread shall be geared towards serving as an effective tool for bettering members' means and methods of debating, while also empowering us to become more highly effective communicators.

The Goals of this thread are:
1) Empower you to become more successfull at debating and getting your intended points across.
2) To assist ATS, BTS, and PTS members to become more affective at communicating using writing/reading (blogging) as a medium.
3) To serve as a guide to understanding why debate based threads fail to produce the results that fall within the parameters of members' expectations.

The intended purpose of this thread is to maintain an environment in which valued members of ATS/BTS/PTS can both introduce/share debating tactics known to them, as well as voice their opinions concerning effective and ineffective methods of debating.

The purpose behind this thread is to serve all members as a concerted effort to offer tools that will improve our inter-personal communication skills and for members to share their methods of debating with one another in a friendly and non-abbrasive manner.

Perhaps we will discover that the more adapt our potential opponents are at debating, the more we will learn and the more we will be inspired to improve our personal methods of communicating and getting our points across while participating more effectively in our favorite forums.

If this thread is to be a success is totally dependant upon the contributing members, and readers. If you teach a thing concerning debating tactics (whether does or don'ts), or whether you learn a thing previously unknown to you concerning the fine art of debating, is ultimatley up to you. I've learned a few things just by doing a little research for the subject matter.

Perhaps there have been times you have fell into the illusion that your mind is somehow inferior to someone elses when previously unknown information is introduced to you that makes you question your perspective or viewpoint on a subject, or caused you to question previous assumptions that you have already accepted as true and incorporated into your outlook on life? Maybe you didn't like feeling "inferior". This has happened to me a more than a few times here, and I think it is a growing experience to welcome new ways of looking at a subject. If this has not yet happened to us on ATS/BTS/PTS, then what are we learning from this experience?

Questions to ask yourself:

1) What methods of debating do i think are most effective?

2) What methods of debating do i dislike the most?

3) What methods of debating do i see utilized most?

4) What methods of debating do i use the most?

5) How can i improve the way i choose to debate?

You'll probably notice that my avatar does not have "fighter" status (yet), but this is not a hinderance or a pre-requisite for wanting to be more effective at debating complicated issues.

There are forums structured strictly around debating on ATS, however members certainly encounter the debating experience throughout nearly all forums on this websight.

Hopefully this thread will serve as a catalyst for members to become more insightfull in regards to presenting their perspectives in a more mature and effective manner. But, ultimatley this choice is up to each individual who reads it, and/or offers their input and personal experiences they have had.

Why Posted in "Slug-Fest"?

Debate Forum: Structured formal debate with strict rules and active moderator involvement. Access to the forum is restricted and all threads must be approved by the staff.

Politics Head-2-Head: Structured short-form political debate with simple rules and active moderator involvement. Access to the forum is restricted and all threads must be approved by the staff.

Slug-Fest: Free-form political debate with simple guidelines and passive moderator involvement. Access to the forum is unrestricted and members are welcome to start new threads.

Slug-Fest is not access controlled, nor does it have "restrictions".

However, if a mod thinks this thread would be better served in the "General Forum", or another forum it would most certainly be understood.


Tactics used in Debating

I have reviewed many websights and gathered together some information concerning debating that i feel many members will most certainly find interesting and hopefully grant some insight for us on how to become more effective at debating, communicating, and getting others to at least recognize our views on specific subject matters that interest us.

Anatomy of Communication


C & W's original model consisted of five elements:

1) An information source, which produces a message.
2) A transmitter, which encodes the message into signals
3) A channel, to which signals are adapted for transmission
4) A receiver, which 'decodes' (reconstructs) the message from the signal.
5) A destination, where the message arrives." target='_blank' class='tabOff'/>

Levels of problems in the analysis of communication
Shannon and Weaver argued that there were three levels of problems of communication:

A The technical problem: how accurately can the message be transmitted?
B The semantic problem: how precisely is the meaning 'conveyed'?
C The effectiveness problem: how effectively does the received meaning affect behaviour?

Michael Reddy (1979) has noted our extensive use in English of 'the conduit metaphor' in describing communicative acts. In this metaphor, 'The speaker puts ideas (objects) into words (containers) and sends them (along a conduit) to a hearer who takes the idea/objects out of the word/containers' (Lakoff & Johnson 1980: 10). The assumptions the metaphor involves are that:

Language functions like a conduit, transferring thoughts bodily from one person to another;
in writing and speaking, people insert their thoughts or feelings into the words;
words accomplish the transfer by containing the thoughts or feelings and conveying them to others;
in listening or reading, people extract the thoughts and feelings once again from the words. (Reddy 1979: 290)
As Reddy notes, if this view of language were correct, learning would be effortless and accurate. The problem with this view of language is that learning is seen as passive, with the learner simply 'taking in' information (Bowers 1988: 42). I prefer to suggest that there is no information in language, in books or in any medium per se. If language and books do 'contain' something, this is only words rather than information. Information and meaning arises only in the process of listeners, readers or viewers actively making sense of what they hear or see. Meaning is not 'extracted', but constructed.

In relation to mass communication rather than interpersonal communication, key metaphors associated with a transmission model are those of the hypodermic needle and of the bullet. In the context of mass communication such metaphors are now largely used only as the targets of criticism by researchers in the field.

posted on Dec, 24 2006 @ 01:22 PM
On the following websight I found some concepts I believe many members can benefit from, and offers some favorable insights into ideas and concepts which many people have adopted as meaningful tactics in regards to debating more effectively.

Intellectually-honest and intellectually-dishonest debate tactics


When Harvard Business School was founded in 1908, it was modeled after Harvard Law School which also uses the case method of instruction. In college, I was on the debate team during my freshman year. Retired general and unsuccessful presidential candidate Wesley Clark was on that debate team as well.
Although I am fond of intellectually-honest debate, most of the statements made by my opponents to prove that I am wrong have been of the intellectually-dishonest variety.
Lest I be accused of intellectually-dishonest debate myself, I hereby explain the difference.
Two intellectually honest tactics
There are two intellectually-honest debate tactics:
1. revealing errors or omissions in your opponent’s facts
2. revealing errors or omissions in your opponent’s logic

All other debate tactics are intellectually dishonest.

Here is a list of the intellectually-dishonest debate tactics I have identified thus far.
Intellectually-Dishonest Debate Tactics:
1. Name calling: debater tries to diminish the argument of his opponent by calling the opponent a name that is subjective and unattractive; for example, cult members and bad real estate gurus typically warn the targets of their frauds that “dream stealers” will try to tell them the cult or guru is giving them bad advice; name calling is only intellectually dishonest when the name in question is ill defined or is so subjective that it tells the listener more about the speaker than the person being spoken about; there is nothing wrong with using a name that is relevant and objectively defined; the most common example of name calling against me is “negative;” in coaching, the critics of coaches are often college professors and the word “professor” is used as a name-calling tactic by the coaches who are the targets of the criticism in question; as a coach, I have been criticzed as being “too intense,” a common put-down of successful youth and lower level high school coaches.

This tactic is usually frowned upon here on ATS, and almost certainly results in the reduction of points and a warning being issued to the offending member by the Mods. But, aside from the fear of losing points or losing “face”, this tactic will most certainly discredit the peoples’ integrity that utilize name calling as an effective tool for debating in the long run. Name calling serves little purpose towards making the recipient of the information being sent more receptive. When we attempt to offend someone by personal attack it makes us look as though we believe we are superior to them and more importantly invokes their instinct to choose to “fight or flight”, in which case they are less likely to be open to a name caller’s opinions, or point of view. Unfortunately we see too much of this on ATS from time to time. And perhaps this tactic has “put you off” when it is applied to you.

2. Changing the subject: debater is losing so he tries to redirect the attention of the audience to another subject area where he thinks he can look better relative to the person he is debating.

This may sound familiar to some of us. But, sometimes I think it may be important to let them lead the conversation this way, for a time. Try to keep a receptive, and open mind. Perhaps they may have a point, or may introduce previously perceived as “unrelated” information, that does have some merit concerning the subject they turned away from. If you decide to follow their train of thought for a time, you can certainly redirect the conversation back to the original subject that was being discussed.

3. Questioning the motives of the opponent: this is a form of tactic number 2 changing the subject; as stated above, it is prohibited by Robert’s Rule of Order 43; a typical tactic use against critics is to say, “They’re just trying to sell newspapers” or in my case, books—questioning motives is not always wrong; only when it is used to prove the opponent’s facts or logic wrong is it invalid.

I personally like the point being made with #3. Although a person’s intentions do regulate how they choose to decipher incoming information, a person’s intentions does not necessarily change truth or facts, so should a person’s intentions have a bearing on facts? I think intention may affect the reciever’s interpretation of the facts, but has little to do with the sender’s facts if the facts are able to be substantiated.

4. Citing irrelevant facts or logic: this is another form of tactic Number 2 changing the subject.
5. False premise: debater makes as statement that assumes some other fact has already been proven when it has not; in court, such a statement will be objected to by opposing counsel on the grounds that it “assumes facts not in evidence.”
6. Hearsay: debater cites something he heard but has not confirmed through his own personal observation or research from reliable sources
7. Unqualified expert opinion: debater gives or cites an apparently expert opinion which is not from a qualified expert; in court, an expert must prove his qualifications before he can give an opinion
8. Sloganeering: Debater uses a slogan rather than state facts or logic. Slogans are vague sentences or phrases that derive their power from rhetorical devices like alliteration, repetition, cadence, or rhyming; Rich Dad Poor Dad’s “Don’t work for money, make money work for you” is a classic example. In sports, coaches frequently rely on cliches, a less rhetorical form of slogan, to deflect criticism.
9. Motivation end justifies dishonest means: debater admits he is lying or using fallacious logic but excuses this on the grounds that he is motivating the audience to accomplish a good thing and that end justifies the intellectually-dishonest means
10. Cult of personality: debater attempts to make the likability of each debate opponent the focus of the debate on the grounds that he believes he is more likable than the opponent
11. Vagueness: debater seems to cite facts or logic, but his terms are so vague that no facts or logic are present
12. Playing on widely held fantasies: debater offers facts or logic that support the fantasies of the audience thereby triggering powerful desires to believe that override normal desire for truth or logic
13. Claiming privacy with regard to claims about self: debater makes favorable claims about himself, but when asked for details or proof of the claims, refuses to provide any claiming privacy
14. Stereotyping: debater “proves” his point about a particular person by citing a stereotype that supposedly applies to the group that opponent is a member of; dismissing criticism by academic researchers by citing Ivory Tower stereotypes is an example of this debate tactic
15. Scapegoating: debater blames problems on persons other than the audience; this is a negative version of playing on widely-held fantasies; it plays on widely-held animosities or dislikes
16. Arousing envy: debater attempts to get the audience to dislike his opponent because the audience is envious of something that can be attributed to the opponent
17. Redefining words: debater uses a word that helps him, but that does not apply, by redefining it to suit his purposes
18. Citing over-valued credentials: debater accurately claims something about himself or something he wants to prove, but the claim made is one that attempts to get the audience to overrely on a credential that is or may be over-valued by the audience; for example, some con men point to registration of a trademark or corporation as evidence of approval by the government of the con man’s goods or services
19. Claiming membership in a group affiliated with audience members: debater claims to be a member of a group that members of the audience are also members of like a religion, ethnic group, veterans group, and so forth; the debater’s hope is that the audience members will let their guard down with regard to facts and logic as a result and that they will give their alleged fellow group member the benefit of any doubt or even my-group-can-do-no-wrong immunity
20. Accusation of taking a quote out of context: debater accuse opponent of taking a quote that makes the debater look bad out of context. All quotes are taken out of context—for two reasons: quoting the entire context would take too long and federal copyright law allows quotes but not reproduction of the entire text. Taking a quote out of context is only wrong when the lack of the context misrepresents the author’s position. The classic example would be the movie review that says, “This movie is the best best example of a waste of film I have ever seen,” then gets quoted as “This movie is the best...I’ve ever seen.” Any debater who claims a quote misrepresents the author’s position must cite the one or more additional quotes from the same work that supply the missing context and thereby reveal the true meaning of the author. Merely pointing out that the quote is not the entire text proves nothing. Indeed, if a search of the rest of the work reveals no additional quotes that show the original quote was misleading, the accusation itself is dishonest.

A more comprehensive list of “Intellectually-Dishonest” Debate tactics can be viewed at this link:

[edit on 24-12-2006 by Esoteric Teacher]

posted on Dec, 24 2006 @ 01:23 PM
Here is a Link/Source in which the author shares their views on debating tactics that they personally do not appreciate, and supplies some good examples of what it is they are specifically speaking about. I believe many of us will be able to identify with the concepts the author is trying to share:

As you'd expect, I've spent a lot of time arguing with left-wingers. As a result of those discussions, I've learned a lot of the little tricks the left -- and yes, sometimes those on the right -- like to use when arguments are going against them. Here are some of those techniques...
1) Attack The Messenger: Instead of addressing the argument that has been made, people using this method attack the person making it instead. This is particularly easy for many delusional people on the left who believe that almost everyone on the right is a racist, sexist, homophobic, Fascist who longs for the return of the Confederacy and is planning to start throwing leftists in prison camps if they let their guard down for five minutes. The charge made doesn't even have to be accurate, in fact it's better in some ways if it's off target. That's because the more whacked out the charge is, the more compelled your opponent will feel to spend his time defending himself while you continue to make your points.
2) The Bait & Switch: When a claim is made and your opponent refutes it, don't try to respond, simply change the subject. Example,
Lefty Debater: I think we all know what kind of job George Bush has done with the economy. Right off the bat, he got the economy into a recession.
Conservative Debater: Excuse me, but you're incorrect. The recession started under Bill Clinton, not George Bush.
Lefty Debater: Well what about his tax cuts? They're for the rich, the rich I tell you!
Conservative Debater: What about getting rid of the marriage penalty and increasing the child tax credit? Are you arguing that only rich people get married and have kids?
Lefty Debater: Haliburton, did I mention Haliburton? What about that, huh? I guess you want to dodge that issue.
The best part about this from the left-wing debater's perspective is that since they never acknowledged they were wrong, they can feel free to make the exact same incorrect claim in future debates.
3) The Blitzkrieg: The goal here is blast your opponent with so many accusations that they can't possibly respond. Example,
Lefty Debater: George Bush? Who would defend someone who was AWOL from the National Guard, used coke, lied about weapons of mass destruction, raised taxes on the poor, wants to cut Social Security, is the worst environmental President we've ever had, and who has destroyed the US economy?
Moderator: That's great, but the question was, "Should the Israelis kick Arafat out of the "Disputed Territories"?
It doesn't matter if all -- or even any -- of the accusations are true, relevant, or make any sense. The goal is just to get them out there. Making an accusation takes a few seconds, refuting one takes much longer. So an opponent confronted with these accusations will never actually have time to respond.
4) Enter The Strawman: Tremendously exaggerating your opponent's position and then claiming to fight against a position they don't hold is always a great way to dodge the issues. In all fairness, this is a technique often used by the left & right. But still, the right can't hold a candle to the left in this area. I mean how many times have you heard, "Republicans are going to take your Social Security away," "The GOP wants to poison the water and the air," "Republicans want to take away your Civil Rights" etc, etc?
This whole concept has gotten so out of hand on the left that we now even have some people on the left comparing the Israelis to Nazis. Look, when you're claiming that a bunch a Jews defending themselves from people who want to kill them are like Nazis, you've gone so far past irony that you almost need a new word to describe it like -- "Idiorony" or "outofyourmindony". But that's what happens when people wink at all these strawmen that are tossed out in debates. Eventually some people start to take them seriously and build on them.
5) History Will Be Kind To Me For I Intend To Write It: The technique is similar to using strawmen in some respects. What you try to do is to rewrite history, to claim that a debate in a previous time was different than it actually was. Here's an example of how this is done,
Mother: I told you to be back by 11 PM and you're just getting in at 1:30 AM!
Teenage Daughter: I don't think I remember you mentioning that...
Mother: I told you 3 times to be in by 11, I left a note reminding you on the dinner table and snuck one into your purse, I called you on your cellular phone at 10:30 and reminded you to make it home by 11 and I even told your boyfriend he'd better have you back in time.
Teenage Daughter: Oh, oh, oh wait...I remember now -- you meant 11 PM? I thought you meant 11 AM. I thought that by getting in at 1:30 AM I was here 9 and 1/2 hours early. Silly me!
Mother: Nice try, you're still grounded!
The build-up to Iraq war has been treated in a similar fashion by the anti-war crowd. Before the war there were complaints that Bush wouldn't stick to one reason for invading, now there are claims that it was only about WMD. There was almost no debate on Capitol Hill between Dems & the GOP about whether Iraq actually had WMD until after the war when it became apparent that none were going to be quickly be found. Throwaway lines that were hardly noticed before the war (like the controversial yet true 16 words in the State of the Union speech) have been treated as if they were core arguments made by the Bush administration after the fact. It's all just a way to rewrite history.
6) I'm Not Hearing You -- La La La: Just totally ignoring what your opponent has to say and going on to something else is another technique often used by politicians of all stripes, but no one, and I mean no one, can hang with Yasser Arafat and company when it comes to totally blowing off any uncomfortable questions that are asked. For example...
Moderator: So Mr. Arafat, are you willing to disarm Hamas & Islamic Jihad?
Arafat: The Israelis want to kill me! They are causing all the problems! We want peace, but the Israelis don't!
Moderator: That's fine Mr. Arafat, but are you willing to disarm Hamas & Islamic Jihad?
Arafat: Why don't you ask the Israelis if they will stop their terrorism against our people? Why don't you ask them that?
Moderator: Mr. Arafat you seem to be ignoring my question.
Arafat: Are you questioning me? Do you know who I am? I am general Arafat! This interview is over!
When they duck the question, it's a pretty good indication that they don't have an answer anyone wants to hear.
7) Motives Matter, Results Don't: Oftentimes when people on the left are losing an argument or can't explain why they seem to be so inconsistent on certain issues, they start questioning the motives of their opponents. For example, if you favored going to war with Serbia based on nothing more than humanitarian grounds, then logically you should also be in favor of invading Iraq for exactly the same reason. But of course, that's not how it works for a lot of people.
So to get around that, they just claim that there are impure motives afoot. The Bush administration may have claimed to care about stopping terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, humanitarian causes, or UN Resolutions, but it was really all about stealing oil, getting payoffs for business buddies, getting revenge for an attack on "daddy", because Bush needed Iraqi sand for his garden, Bush was jealous of Saddam's rugged good looks, etc, etc, who cares -- they're all equally ridiculous. When the real issues are too tough to deal with, it's all too easy to just pretend something else is what you're really upset about.

posted on Dec, 24 2006 @ 01:23 PM

8) That Context Is On A Need To Know Basis: Stripping away the context of a situation is a favored technique of people who hate the United States. They talk about something the United States has done without discussing the reasoning behind it, the actions that provoked it, or other things that the United States might have also done that would place us in a more favorable light. It's very easy to make someone look like a bad guy if you simply don't include every detail that doesn't support your case. For example,
Lawyer: Your honor, I intend to prove that my client is innocent of all charges and that the police shot him maliciously, recklessly, and without cause as he was minding his own business at the park.
Judge: He was minding his own business? According to the police report I have in front of me, your client had shot 3 drug dealers who were standing in "his spot" and was firing off rounds from an Uzi at a passing school bus, two nuns on a nearby park bench, and at the officers as they arrived. That doesn't sound like he was "minding his own business" to me.
Lawyer: It does if his business is being a drug dealing thug -- ha, ha, ha! Hey, that's just a little joke. It was getting a little tense in're not laughing. OK, just checking -- is that plea bargain still available?
9) That's Mean, Mean, Mean! When it comes to certain subjects, ordinarily rational people turn into complete bubbleheads. For example, you could probably put together a bill that called for nuclear waste to be dumped in every Walmart in America and as long as you called it the, "Feed The Children For A New Tomorrow Bill" about a 1/3rd of the American population would support it. So naturally, some people take advantage of this and claim that certain policy proposals are "mean". Once you say that, results, logic, how expensive the project is, etc, etc, goes out the window and the argument becomes over whether someone is "mean" or not.

** I think it is important to note that many threads on ATS are also threads based upon speculation, where facts or proof are near none existent. Speculation and making “educated guesses” to provide a means to make progress using arguments that are plausible and possible, given known information and using logic. Even the founder of ATS incorporates the importance for speculation in his email signature. It is difficult to see how advancing in some areas of study could be difficult without it. Furthermore, it is difficult to imagine how people as a whole can go from the known to the unknown without thinking to ask the questions that no one else has ever asked. Without “opinion” and speculation how could a never before asked question ever be asked?

What are some Debating Tactics you like to use?
What are some Debating Tactics you do not prefer?
What are some things you believe make for a more productive debate, and a more productive ATS experience?

As always your contributions are welcome, and I hope you find this thread to offer some information that will better serve you, and make your ATS experience more enjoyable for you, and your fellow members.

posted on Dec, 24 2006 @ 02:28 PM
I would like to offer some things i like about debating, and some things i do not like about debating.

1) I learn through experience how to better listen, and better communicate. Sometimes language itself can brain surgery via words.
2) I learn more about why i veiw things a certain way, and thus learn more about myself and how my perception works to my advantage/disadvantage.
3) I learn more about the subject matter at hand.


Every once in awhile i engage in a converstation or debate in which a person has some long accpeted beliefs that do not permit them to view or percieve the point of view i am trying to convey or share.

It can be frustrating sometimes to try to share an idea or concept that is relatively easy for me to see as plausible or possible, but they demonstrate they have an unwillingness to acknowledge the plausibility or possibility of the point i am introducing as merely not impossible.

Let's face it. Some people come to ATS only looking for a "fight" or debate, or perhaps they sign on to blow off some steam and vent.

But when sometimes we find ourselves in a debate where one person just can not see it from your point of view, and refuses to do so. I'm sure there are varying reasons for this, and perhaps the reasons would be a long list.

I'm currently under the impression that new information can only be acknowledge or recognized by a person if they already have been introduced to certain information.

In other words it is my understanding that the most minds operate within the parameters of "The Law of Association". Which is to say a person can only learn a new thing if the new thing can be referenced in their mind as similiar to something they already have been introduced to.
For instance: People do not start learning math by studying algebra or trigonometry first. No, first they need to learn how to count, then add and subtract, and so on, and so forth.

But, what if a person has somehow already learned a thing as fact, which does not permit them to readily accept a new peice of information since it would be contrary to what they (in their mind) know is true.

an example of what i am saying would be:

Person "A" believes the sky is blue, and water is wet.

Person "B" is trying to get person "A" to accept the possibility that the sky is not blue and that water is not wet.

In order to "coax" person "A" into seeing a different point of view other than theirs, sometimes it seems people are so adamant in their accepted beliefs that they are simply unwilling to listen to any other plausible information concerning the color of the sky, or the wetness of water.

In simpler words what i am trying to say is that sometimes i encounter conversations in which people actually have pre-accepted truths that they have accepted as fact for so long it actually hinders them from being capable of recognizing a different point of view as it is contrary to what they believe.

In certain conversations there are instances where a person may have to temporarily put their personal views aside before they are able to percieve looking at a subject from a different angle.

A prime point i try to make (sometimes all to often) is that our minds operate under the guide of "Law of Association". And if the first accepted truth at the cellular level is the instinct "Self pre-serve" where "pre" means "before", then their outlook on life has always been "i am self before i serve anything or anyone", which is the only compliance to their instinct, and all associated knowledge that they have accumilated since birth can still be traced to the seed/root of selfishness.

So, often i personnally appear to be deliberatley confusing a person intentionally and without reason, when it is merely my intention to remove a "roadblock" that is not permitting them from seeing a perspective that is not compliant with their very dna.

These kind of exchanges can often appear to be frustrating for all members involved.

But, if anyone has a better way to convince someone the sky is not blue, when they already know it is a truth that it is, without attempting to confuse the way that they percieve reality, please share.

Of course, the sky being blue is a metaphor for someone simply believing something as absolute fact, which prevents them from considering the possibility of a different way of observing the subject that may be equally as accurate, but they are not permitting themselves to look at it that way.


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