3 Social Skills to Help You Win a Debate

When was the last time you were in a heated debate? At work? With friends? Maybe at a family dinner? As with most opinionated arguments, the conversation probably got loud, tense, and uncomfortable. It’s human nature to dig your heels in when your world view is being challenged so many people stop listening—especially if there is yelling, sarcasm or belittling involved in the “debate.”

Getting your point across in an effective way that allows the other person to hear and understand you is the first step towards making a change. While some people try to persuade with logic and intellect, social skills are just as important for getting your point across. Any conflict, debate, or even discussion can benefit from both parties exercising these emotional intelligence (EQ) principles to create a dialogue that opens the door to better understanding.

These EQ techniques can (and should) be used in the workplace, with your relatives, in the political realm, and even during your next happy hour with friends to make a point others will listen to.

Listen to understand

Too often we aren’t truly listening in a conversation. We sit quietly and plan our next sentence, whether it’s a counterpoint or something we feel is more important than what our converser is currently saying. The very first step in having a conversation that leads to understanding is listening to hear their point of view.

While the other person is speaking, listen to understand. It may be difficult if your counterpart is saying bigoted or hurtful things, but fully understanding why they believe those things is the key to changing their minds.

Demonstrate understanding

The next step is verbally communicating to your converser that you truly understand their point of view. You can do this by repeating their main points and either extrapolating with the evidence they offered you or empathizing with examples of your own (even if you don’t agree).

Understand the emotions

Once you understand what they are telling you, it’s time to go a layer deeper. Oftentimes people hide hurt under anger or fear behind bigotry. Your best defense and offense in any argument is to address the true emotions behind people’s words. There is a finesse to it. Blatantly telling someone how they really feel will only lead to aggression and denial.

Appeal to their underlying emotions with personal stories that put you in their place and show you experiencing those same emotions. Do this without ever explicitly telling them they are experiencing those emotions. Whether they realize it or not, they will feel connected with you because you are speaking to their subconscious self.

Tug on their heartstrings

Once you are emotionally connected to your converse an air of camaraderie will replace tension. Making yourself vulnerable will feel scary, but it’s high risk, high reward. You have now shown that you and your opponent have been in the same emotional state at one time or another. With this small sense of comradery, it’s time to demonstrate how you overcame that sense of fear or hurt to move to the place of understanding you are currently in.

If you try to understand the other perspective and then move together into a new place of understanding, you’ll be able to convince anyone to see it from your point of view.

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Author: Jessica Welch

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