Sunday, October 27, 2013

Debate Tip #7: Sum It Up

I think that one of the most frustrating things about any communication is when it appears that the person you are talking to does not have a clue of what you just said.  At the same level of annoyance is when that person does not appear to even have considered what you've said.  It is a fundamental sign of respect to illustrate that you have understood what you have been told and considered it, even if you disagree with it.

Show that respect.  The more respect you provide your opponent, the more likely they are to show respect to you, and actually consider what you are saying.

So, when your opponent states a position one way or another, take a moment to summarize what your opponent just said in the reply.  This helps to ensure that you actually know what your opponent meant, because he or she will have the chance to correct you.  It also demonstrates to them that you have actually considered their words.

Then proceed to rip their position to shreds with countering facts... doing so in a respectful manner, of course.  ;-)

You don't have to do this with every reply.  Just do so as it feels necessary.  Once you have done this on your own two or three times, you will be in a better position to ask them to do the same for you, if they haven't already picked up the trend of doing so.

If they appear to be completely ignoring your points, just kindly say something like "I am not sure that you fully understand my position.  Would you mind summarizing my point(s) and elaborating on why you object to them?"  Through this act, they will be forced to reconsider your position, or, alternately, you will be able to see where their misunderstanding/mental impediment is in understanding you.


  1. Good advice. Some people listen just enough to decide what they will say in response without really considering what they are responding to. I'm guilty on that when debating the moral argument for God...but I still kinda think it's okay in that case, it's not like I'm going to hear anything new. :-)

  2. Thanks! Yeah, Grundy, that's a well trodden path, for sure, and we're in a better position to know all sides given the our experiences on both sides of the fence, which is (often) not the case for the faithful who you talk to. For us, doing something like the summation thing is just one of those social protocols that will (hopefully) help to open minds which are already on the defensive.