1. Question everything.
The most effective debate strategy is to simply make your opponent defend their position. Over and over. Every 4 year old knows how it’s done. Ask why. Ask how. Ask what. Be disciplined and relentless in this approach. People’s opinions are usually a mile wide and an inch deep.
They fall apart after their talking points are exhausted. You can often win an argument just by making your opponent back up his beliefs. This strategy will also require you to question and test your own beliefs. Do they hold up?
2. Be scrupulously honest.
This may sound quaint but the truth still matters. Most people know when they are being lied to. Some may swallow it for awhile, some may look the other way for the sake of expediency and some may not care at all. But for most people it makes a difference. And if you lose your credibility on an issue, you are finished. Maybe not right away. But eventually you’re done. The truth is a long game.
3. Yield on some points.
Give your opponent something to drag back to the cave. If your opponent makes a good point, tell them. It doesn’t mean you have to agree. This may come as a shock to most people, but complex issues often have excellent arguments to be made by both sides. That’s why they are so intractable. This recognition can help ratchet down the emotion and lead to reasonable discourse.
4. Ignore ignorance.
We all know that guy- the one who is always looking for a fight. You ask him how his weekend went and he starts in with some political diatribe. Then there’s the friend who posts a video on Facebook with a comment like, ‘I’m just going to leave this right here for you ‘libtards!’ or ‘Chew on this you p.o.s. republican knuckle draggers.’ (Both are real comments by some of my ‘friends’). Ignore these people. They aren’t really part of the debate and never have been. That’s why they’re so angry.
5. Run for office.
Has your slumber under the warm blanket of democracy been disrupted? Well now that you’re awake you might as well do something. Get off your ass. Run for office. Volunteer in a campaign. Be the next American hero. Quit with the excuses. Why you? Because you can. This is still the greatest Country in the world for that reason alone.
6. Turn off the television (Or Twitter or Facebook).
Not because it’s ‘fake news’ but because it’s an endless loop of echoes. You sit in your chamber and surround yourself with programs which only serve to reinforce your own beliefs. Cable new programs are crack for your basest instincts. The talking heads you worship don’t even believe or understand the bullshit they force feed you on a daily basis. It’s not information. It’s entertainment.
7. Make it personal.
This isn’t what you think. I don’t mean for you to call people ‘trolls’ or ‘dipshits’, even if it’s true. No, this is about the most effective way to argue your point. Find a compelling story about a real person and how his life is impacted by whatever policy you are trying to advocate. Our feeble brains cannot process statistics but we can always remember a story.
8. Stop yelling.
I get it. There are a ton of really pissed off people right now on both sides. Protests and rallies are an important part of our democracy. Those are great places for a bullhorn. But when you go to a town hall meeting or you’re locked in a debate or you’re having a discussion and you shout down your opponent without giving her an opportunity to speak, that’s not effective. It’s rude. It’s like the all caps tweet. It doesn’t elevate your point. It may make you feel better but it just makes you look foolish.
9. Laugh and smile.
If you truly want to disarm your opponent, make them laugh. The most persuasive tool is humor. This is why SNL has been politically relevant for over 40 years. People take politics too seriously.
Another point: When you are engaged in a debate, always smile. This will accomplish one of two things. It will make your opponent lighten up or it will make them angry. Both can be equally effective.
10. Live your life.
Exhale. Go outside. Meet new people. Lighten up. The constant torrent of political bullshit will eat you alive. 99% of what you’re freaking out about doesn’t impact your daily life a single iota anyway. So let it go. Besides, if you’re ratcheted up to boil all the time, you’ll be too exhausted to fight when it really matters.