How To Get Nowhere in a Debate

Every one of us has been in a conversation where we try to change someone’s mind about an issue that both sides stand firmly on. This could have been about anything, from what kind of toppings belong on a hot dog to whether or not climate change is human influenced. In the end, your mind did not change and neither did that of your opponent. Things may have even become heated and regretful words exchanged. This exchange of words resulted in an even worse situation than what existed before the discussion. What went wrong?

In these situations, it’s not so much “what went wrong?” as it is “where did we begin?” Using U.S. politics as an example of this entire premise, how can a successful debate about welfare occur when one side thinks of a struggling mother trying to work and provide for her child, while the other side thinks of someone who abuses the system?

How can a successful debate about gun control occur when one side thinks of school shootings, while the other side thinks of an elderly woman protecting herself?

How can a successful debate about illegal immigration occur when one side thinks of people seeking opportunity, while the other side thinks of people living a lawless lifestyle?

If the fundamentals surrounding an issue cannot be agreed upon, then a productive conversation cannot be had. We all process information differently, but before anything can move forward, barriers must be deconstructed. The first line of this essay is a statement that we all agree with, because we have all been there before. This was intentionally done and is likely why you continued reading this far.

So next time you decide to go to battle on Facebook with that friend who always shoots political cannonballs, or decide that it’s worth your while to debate anything, start instead by first finding that point that you both agree on and proceed from there. There is always common ground if both parties are wise enough to find it.

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