Debate and Disagreement

There are two skills commonly deemed necessary for being good at philosophical discussion and debate.

1) The first skill is the ability to communicate one’s views in a clear, concise, and compelling manner.

2) The second skill is the ability to charitably listen to others as they express their points of view.

There’s a third skill, however, that often gets left out of the discussion: the ability to emotionally cope with the phenomenon of disagreement.

Skill #3 is just as important as skill #’s 1 and 2.

No matter how clear, concise, and compelling you think you are, there’s always a possibility that others will remain unconvinced by your arguments.

No matter how patiently and respectfully you listen to others, there’s always a chance that they still won’t let you influence them with your ideas.

Even if you say and do everything right, you still might be offhandedly dismissed as wrong.

A good debater has to learn to be at peace with those facts.

Nothing weakens a person’s presentation more than an inability to recognize that the world does not end if one’s views are rejected.

The person who loses their cool rarely wins anything other than a reputation for being a hothead who’s too emotionally fragile to handle the existence of philosophical diversity.

Life is complex. People are complex. Communication is complex.

No matter how hard we try, we won’t always see eye to eye.

It’s good to know how to argue. It’s better to know how to listen. It’s best to understand the limitations of both.

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