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In life, there are times when you meet someone that truly, hardcore disagrees with everything you hold dear. They disagree with your opinions, feelings, reactions, and thoughts. And you might feel offended, get defensive, and wind up saying some very hateful things. However, having a debate that ends in hate is the opposite of productivity and progress. If you want to debate, you CAN argue your position without being disrespectful to theirs—and here’s how.

Have Knowledge of the Debate Materials

There is an old saying that goes, “it is better to remain silent and let people assume your ignorance than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” Debate is more than passion for a stance or a belief. It is knowledge. You have to know what you are talking about before you can perfectly, succinctly convey your passions and points to someone else.

Give Evidence, When Possible, With Your Opinion

When you get into a heated debate, regardless of what that debate is about, you should offer evidence to support your opinion. Research, statistics, good information from reliable resources—anything reputable will strengthen your claims and beliefs, while instilling your know-how and garnering respect from your opposition. Always seek more information on the passion-fueled debate topic of your choice.

Know When to Withdraw

Sometimes debate is like beating a dead horse, as the adage goes. You won’t budge on your stance. Your opposition won’t budge on their beliefs. And it becomes a yelling match that inevitably infuriates and upsets everybody involved. If you see that a debate is going to stir the proverbial pot of bad feelings, withdraw with grace and sit this one out. There is no sense in perpetuating hatred in yourself or someone else.

Never Belittle Someone Else’s Feelings

Despite how someone makes you feel, you should never, ever stoop to hurting someone for the sheer satisfaction of it. You can’t control how someone acts, but you can control how you react. Everyone has the right to their beliefs and stances, just as you do, and no one’s feelings are better than anyone else’s. Keep your debate civil, positive, and on equal ground.

When you finish a debate, regardless of how it made you feel, you should shake hands with your opposition afterwards. This puts human feelings into perspective, while instilling the fact that there is no animosity between either of you. In a nutshell, you should only debate with someone when you know what you are talking about and when you can do so without spreading hatred.