It’s highly possible that you’re a poor debater. Don’t sweat it as I was too until I changed my strategy.

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If you’re like me you enjoy a good debate then it’s actually worth taking a moment to take a hard look at yourself and how you actually debate with others. I’ll just dive right into a car metaphor to make a point here – Please consider this entire write-up as your moment to give yourself a maintenance check and fix any faults you may discover. (Along with some potential upgrades) It’ll be tough to look at yourself objectively – but if you’re to grow as a person and improve your communication skills then this is essential dude.

Human bias has a tendency to make it seem like you’re Julius fucking Caesar during heated debates from time to time when you’re more than likely comparable to Wayne Rooney during a post-game press conference.

My eureka moment of discovering I sucked at debating was at the start of this year at a friend’s house party. I got into a heated debate with a girl (Subject not important) while my buddy decided it was a good idea to film on his phone a few minutes of our word battle before he lost interest. Fast forward to the end of the night during the taxi drive home:

Wanna see the footage of your argument tonight dude?

Oh yeah! of course I did. My buddy showed me the 2 minutes of a cringe worthy performance which stuck with me as I tried to sleep that night. So what did I discover?

  • I have an ego – Yeah, at a certain point of the debate it was clear that my ego was pushing for total victory and in no case was I looking to reach the truth or understand why she thought the way she did.
  • I speak very quickly – There is something about the pace of the debate which favours a controlled projection. When speaking quickly, it’s easy to muddle words and it can come across to others that you’re losing your cool.
  • I interrupt frequently – It was clear at certain times during the debate when I knew she was wrong and I would continuously interrupt her – like a man possessed I couldn’t wait to crush her! (Figuratively of course) This done nothing but create frustration and damage my respect to observers.

The Fix:

Ironically it was my ego that couldn’t accept that I sucked at this – so I immediatly got to work to look for a fix. (I guess the ego works for some things right?)

This TED talk was the first video I came across online and oh boy, did it change everything. Easily my best TED talk ever! Simply because it kicked my ass and told me what I needed to hear.

  • Step 1: watch the TED talk above (9min)
  • Step 2: Redefine the perimeters of winning – If you watched the video above, then you know what this means. Accept that the end goal of the debate is truth – your fellow debater is an ally who can help you get to this location.

Who actually wins in an argument? In a conventional debate:

The loser = Gains a new perspective and moves forward stronger
The winner = No change (Ego gets a tap on the back)

  • Step 3: Pace adjustment – With my ego eliminated from the equation, I immediatly noticed my conversational pace maintained a gentle flow throughout the discussions that followed. Who would have guessed? When you’re not fighting for bragging rights, your speech tends to slow down a notch.
  • Step 4: Dance the Dance – Now when I’m debating with the aforementioned changes in effect, it feels that I’m flowing through debates in a smug-like fashion as I’m untouchable. I dance through the debate happy to embrace defeat if it takes me to the truth. I hurl praise at my opponents as they make smart comments to their utter surprise – but at a moments notice I swing the opposite way and call them out for inaccuracies. A dance is how I describe it – debates are no longer tense for me, and this calmness now renders most of my opponents into a frustration.


I look back at that recent moment during the party with a smug sense of satisfaction. I’ve self-diagnosed my shitty debate style and turned myself into a good debater in a very short period of time. This is a skill that follows us throughout life and directly effects our relationships and our ability to communicate with others. An interesting bi-product of my new approach however is the clarity in which I can now see others struggling as they debate with me. They’re people of the old way – fighting to achieve victory at all costs. So, put down your sword and join me in the ranks of intelligent debaters. Hoorah!