A couple posts ago, I invited readers to grade me on how I conducted a debate. I thought I would have kept everything civil, thus the invite to grade me. ;-) As it turned out, that debate went very poorly, in fact it was probably the worst debate I've had in many years. The strength of my argument was still good, but the strength of my tone was just too much. I was enjoying belittling my opponent's mistakes a little too much.
And the worst part for me was that my opponent just didn't get how badly he was being beaten! :-p It was like having a battle of wits with an unarmed person. ;-)
Seriously though, I've reflected on what happened... how and why did it go the horrible way it went.
Ad hominem attacks. My opponent started with one, and then it was downhill from there. But that's not the whole story...
I strive to enlighten people, but you can only enlighten people when they are ready for it.
I had dealt with this opponent before, and he had not exactly been a pleasure to deal with. It is hard to interpret just from text, but he seemed to be one of those types of people who do not fully consider what you say. Instead, they just instantly bounce back with why their opinion is right. That's difficult to discern, because if you have a strong knowledge of the topic, it can seem as though you are not giving the other side its proper consideration.
With this being the second time I had dealt with this opponent, and based on how he started the debate without having done proper research of my position which he was attacking, I had gotten the sense that he was just out to try to make me look foolish.
I really don't need his help. I can look foolish all by myself, thank you very much. :-)
So, I think the little switch flipped in my brain which said "this guy is not into a meaningful discussion," and so I treated it that way. I defended my points, but I insulted him too often along the way, as it was convenient. In that process, if he really had been there for a meaningful discussion, well, he surely would have changed his mind to align with my prejudiced perception of him. ;-)
Therein lies the fault. You can't convince people in a debate when you are insulting them. In what I am trying to do, I should be acting more like an ambassador, and keep my arguments concise to the topics at hand, not the character of my opponents.
So I am going to promise to myself to keep debates as topic-focused as possible going forward. But you know what? It is really fun to be snarky at times. I'm going to miss that.