May the power of persuasion be forever on your side!

“What do you think, Sasha?” Your stomach drops, your mouth is dry, and your heart starts racing. You know what you want to say but your brain won't work fast enough to construct the sentences. You've got speaker's block and you're drawing a serious blank. 

If you've ever been in that position, you've come to the right place. Most of us aren't born public speakers. We don't know what to say, how to say it, or even how to construct an argument. The good news is that you can learn these skills. In this quick guide, we'll be taking a look at the benefits of learning how to debate and the techniques you can use. 

Benefits of learning how to debate

But wait a minute, why should you bother? Before we take a look at how to debate, let's delve into the benefits of possessing this skill. No matter what career you have, this talent will help you to get ahead. Here are some of the advantages that you may want to consider.

  • Conflict resolution. Handling workplace conflicts with grace and decorum is an art form. When you learn how to debate well, you'll be able to navigate this tricky area of your work life. You can use these skills in almost any scenario. 

  • Confidence building. Having proper debating skills helps you to structure your argument well. The functional knowledge of how to do this is sure to give you a confidence boost. You can use this enhanced self-esteem to get ahead at work. 

  • Research and thinking skills. As you'll see in the following section, learning how to debate requires keen research and critical thinking skills. These talents translate to almost every part of your working life and can help you to reach your goals. 
  • Presentation practice. Do you find it hard to speak publicly? You're not alone. However, when you start to practise your debating skills, you'll have to get to grips with this task. The more you do it, the more comfortable you'll be with it. 

You don't have to wait for an opportunity to learn how to debate. You can use these skills in a broad range of workplace situations. For that reason, it's worth getting up to speed with them in advance. That way, when the scenario arises, you're ready for it! 

Debating techniques to use at work 

Okay, let's get down to it. You have a message, or point, that you want to deliver. How can you get it across and persuade your audience to see your point of view? Well-constructed arguments don't happen by accident. Use the following techniques to create yours. 

1. Do some research 

Before we look at how to start a debate, you need to know what you're talking about. Going into a debate without having done your research is like going into battle without any weapons. Long story short, you're going to lose. Ahead of preparing your argument, you need to do some research. You should know your subject matter inside and out. Try looking at it from different angles, too.

2. Identify your audience 

Before you decide what you're going to say, you need to deeply understand your audience. Who are they? You may be delivering your argument to clients, coworkers, or your manager. Whoever it is, you need to adapt the language and tools you use to suit their perspective. 

Try to put yourself in your audience's shoes. What do they already think? Why do they have that opinion? How can you shift their belief system? What would it take to change their mind? By answering some of these questions, you can start to construct your argument. 

3. Choose a core message 

Chances are, the subject is complex. Most are. However, if you try to cover every element of your argument, you risk losing your audience. So, figure out what your main point is. What is the one thing that you hope the audience will take away? When you've chosen your core message, you can centre the rest of your argument around it. Make sure you relate all of your main points back to this idea. That way, your debate will have a clear structure. 

4. Create a solid structure 

Constructing an argument is a type of storytelling. It needs to have a narrative structure that the audience can follow throughout. Here's what you should include in your argument: 

  • Introduction. Let's talk about how to start a debate speech. Kick off by introducing the idea and explaining why it's important. That may mean presenting the problem at hand or how you came upon the topic. Ensure that the audience has a rudimentary understanding of the subject before you start.

  • Core message. Next up, you need to deliver your core message. What point are you trying to prove and why does it matter? Lay this idea out in layperson's terms. That way, you can make sure that everyone is on the same page.
  • Associated arguments. What evidence or arguments do you have that will back up your message? Provide examples and anecdotes, if necessary. Each time you explain an argument, come back around to the central idea and how it relates. 
  • Counter arguments. What do you suppose the opposition will say? You should aim to address these points before they are raised. That way, you can show that you're one step ahead of the competition. 
  • Summary. Many people simply don't know how to end a debate. But it's easier than you might imagine. Return to the core message and briefly explain what you've covered. You want to leave the audience with the main idea planted firmly in their minds. 

If you have trouble structuring your arguments, try making some notes ahead of time. Jot down what points you want to cover in each of the above sections and practise them. 

5. Include persuasive language 

It's not what you say - it's the way that you say it. When we talk about how to debate well, there's one nuance that you can't overlook. The words that you use will make a real impact on the audience. Be sure to use persuasive language that piques their interest. That may mean analogies, metaphors, emotive vocabulary, or choice anecdotes to prove a point.  

6. Employ reflective listening 

Talking at your audience - and failing to hear their perspective - is a mistake. Reflective listening is a technique that you can use to your advantage. Put simply, it means listening to what the other person has to say, understanding it, and repeating it back to them in other words. 

However, there's one caveat. You should do the above and then address the other person's point or concern. For instance, if they are countering your argument, you should repeat what they've said and then expand on the flaws that you can see in their opinion. 

7. Be confident and assertive 

Next up, it's a debating technique that many of us find tricky. Whenever you're delivering an argument, it pays to be confident and assertive. Now, that doesn't mean that you should be rude. There's a fine line when it comes to getting this part of the process right. 

Don't worry if you don't feel confident before you get started. Using positive body language and breathing techniques can help you along the way. Additionally, the more research you do (see point number one!), the more certain you will feel about the virtues of your argument. 

8. Ask some rhetorical questions 

Rhetorical questions have the power to lead your audience toward a specific answer. When you're trying to persuade your audience to see your perspective, asking the right questions can help you along the way. Weave these questions into the main part of your argument. 

9. End on a high note

You want to leave a lasting impression. So, when you're near the end of your argument, you need to conclude strongly. As we've already covered, you should give an overview of what you've discussed. However, you should also include a short message that the audience can remember. The catchier your phrase, the better it will stick in the listener's mind. Think “if it doesn't fit, you must acquit,” for example. 

Now, go and deliver your argument!

Within this guide, we've shared the most effective debating techniques you can use in your work-life. Keep in mind that all of the above take work and practise. You're unlikely to be a debating master the first time you give it a shot. However, the more time you dedicate to building this talent, the more likely you are to become proficient in it. Now go and try it!

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