Thursday, April 14, 2011

Civil Debate: Concerns and Practices

On the forefront of my mind lately is the topic of civil debate, as it's been becoming more and more relevant in my life. Contrary to the past, I've been finding myself in more situations where people are very expressive of their opinions, and as part of several self-improvement concerns, including activism and my lovability goals, I would like to flesh out my ideas on this subject more and establish some new habits so that I'm better and more persuasive as a person.

The most dominant problem is the fact that I'm most consistently silent on my views, even when hearing views I agree with, for fear of the other person's reaction. This strikes me as strange, for I remember a time in my youth in which I was very open about ideological matters, even freely bringing up matters of theology in casual conversation. Now I hardly express my opinions in person at all. This must be due to my last several years spent in suppressing my character and views given that I was constantly around people who couldn't handle the slightest disagreement. Often as a response to my differing views I would get yelled or shouted at, be insulted or intimidated, have my statements misrepresented, be spoken to in snobby tones, be walked out on, get ignored, have my voice drowned out by electronics, and more. And this is just in mostly 1-on-1 conversations where, for the most part, the other person is most responsible for having initiated or left themselves open to the discussion to begin with. As such, even when I'm in the company of people I agree with, I tend to keep to myself because I feel people are ticking bombs quickly ignited by any sense of difference. I mean it literally when I speak of these past people getting upset by the slightest disagreement. Once a guy contested my nutritional views in a very polite and respectful tone during a party and properly dropped the issue when we didn't reach an agreement, but after the party some people threw a fit about the debate and were awed by the guy's "rudeness," demanding he be banned from an upcoming get together. The slightest disagreement.

I know, however, that many people are of course not this ridiculously sensitive to having their views challenged, but it still frightens me. Ideally I'd like to reattain that state in my youth were I could freely speak about the deepest issues without the slightest discomfort and render myself immune to any opponents' discomfort, but I don't know how to go about that. Rubberducking seems like an obvious candidate for practice, as I could treat an inanimate object as a debate opponent, but it still seems questionably limited since I may not be able to project all the ways an opponent could respond. All in all, it looks at this point like I just need to throw myself out there against my discomfort.

There are also a couple more additional concerns that are making me hesitate on expressing my views. For one, what is the best and most polite way to correct someone? This is most related to my fear of setting off someone's temper, for I don't want to go about an improper way of correcting someone's facts or understanding while trying to persuade them that mine is correct. At the very least I know which assertions are and are not essential to the point, so I'm not in danger of desiring to correct the entirety of a person's statement, even their trivial points.

Secondly, though a derivative of the first question, what is the best way to deal with facts in general, in both conveying them and dealing with an opponent's? At the tip of my thoughts are those facts that are just plainly asserted without reference to proof or where/how they learned of it, leaving their point vacuous and unmoving. For instance, recently a guy tried to teach me how the body uses a specific form of energy, but he referred to no scientific tests or valid method through which he came to hold this conclusion. It's just "floating." As for my views on how to properly convey facts, I do at least work to remember roughly the sources I learned of something or had my thoughts provoked from, but I worry about conveying other information in the most concise manner possible while still using a valid method and being persuasive.

Has anyone more developed thoughts on this than I? What do you think?

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