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All about the art of debate -The Asian Age


Fatema Zohra Haque

Debate is an art form. It is basically a formal discussion on a particular matter in a public meeting or legislative assembly, in which opposing arguments are put forward and which usually ends with a vote. Simply put, it's when 2 or more parties argue about (a subject), especially in a formal manner.

Having this skill/ ability is very important for a person. One cannot bring about positive changes around him without proving to the concerned parties of the community about the importance of that change. The presidential election of the United States is the most elitist form of debate on television. Here are some significant observations on all about debate and debating skills for all aspiring debaters to be.

*   Reasoning, research and even public speaking skills are just some of the positives behind learning how to be a great debater. From planning your argument (even if you don't agree with it) to choosing your words wisely, debating will help you take on whatever life chooses to throw at you.

*   Debating is by no means the same as entering into a full-on argument. In fact, you will need to develop a succinct, effective argument, which will gain you support and kudos, rather than blindly attacking your opponent.

*   While you might not debate on a day-to-day basis, chances are you will get involved in small disagreements and differences of opinion. Debating, instead of arguing, can help you defuse a rapidly escalating situation. Rather than raising your voice, take a step back and choose your words wisely. Debating helps you to develop essential critical thinking skills - the ability to make reasoned and well thought out arguments in addition to questioning the evidence behind a particular stance or conclusion.

Critical thinking will help you become curious about new ideas while also retaining a level of skepticism and building a healthy attitude to questioning. It will also help you to become more humble - well, you can't be right all the time!

*    Ever had that feeling when you just can't get your words out quickly enough? Debating can help you become even better at explaining a whole variety of topics. From explaining complex mathematical equations to the plotline of your favourite book, debating helps you to identify your audience and choose the appropriate tone. Too formal a tone will only alienate you from your listeners, while being too relaxed might undermine your own arguments. The ability to articulate and plan your thoughts is key in debating, producing a well- planned out and sharp argument.

*   In any debate the argument matters, even if you don't agree with it on principle. The manner in which you deliver your winning speech is also incredibly important: keeping calm and maintaining eye contact are all proven as effective debating techniques. Last but not least is the method in which you put your debate together. Are your arguments coherent? Do they make sense?

*   A good debater will keep all of these in mind in addition to the core elements they have acquired through education (reading and finding sources, writing and drafting a speech, speaking confidently and being able to listen) - useful both inside and outside the classroom.

*   Think outside of the box, challenge your opponent and be ready to identify any loopholes in their counter-argument. The ability to think on your feet and respond to questions and comments is essential while debating - hesitating could cost you precious time and points.

*    A good debater will remain focused and won't stray from the issue they are discussing. Just like any successful orator, remember who it is you want to keep on side, and present a personable argument - you will appear instantly much more amenable and likeable.

*    A successful speaker will always maintain a degree of empathy while debating - you might not believe in what you have been assigned, but empathy will help you understand and accept the beliefs of others. Nobody is asking you to agree with the other party's argument, but empathy is an important life skill, helping you to improve your relations on a personal and professional level.

*    A good debater will also remember to retain an element of poise and composure - addressing the issue rather than getting carried away emotionally. In fact, managing your emotions will not only stand you in good stead while debating. It is no easy skill to manage, but will gain you respect in every walk of life.

*    Debating will also help you learn how to construct meaning out of, what are usually, rather complex topics. From world peace to banning nuclear energy, taking the time to research the subject and carefully construct the points you want to make will help you construct a better argument.

*    Presentation plays a crucial part in how others perceive you as an individual, and more importantly, as competition. Consider what you are going to say, speak slowly and with clear enunciation. It will make for better reasoning and a clearer understanding of what you say. Good presentation skills will earn you instant respect both while debating and in future situations.

*   Good presentation skills will also help boost confidence - helping you to shine at interviews or work related events. If you are confident you feel more able to take on increased responsibility and even take some risks - helping you to stand out as an individual. A polished overall presentation and confident speaking manner will make you a memorable individual.

*    Debating is a skill which requires any individual to be much more politically and socially aware of current affairs. In fact, debating also requires you to address a whole range of diverse social issues and viewpoints.

*   Debating not only touches on political and social topics, it can also help individuals acquire a totally different worldview too. Debating means students study topics that they wouldn't normally consider, meaning they have a deeper understanding of the society and the world which we live in. An expanded worldview also encourages students to be proud of their talents and achievements, in addition to being more appreciative of the opportunities that await them.Someone once said, "Fools may quarrel and raise their voice, where as wise men whisper and have the ability to debate."

From Cicero to Churchill, history's great debaters have helped shape the world we live in and resolve many of society's issues. All the issues within our society could be solved according to me, with a healthy debate among our leaders. Albeit greed and corruption play an important part too, this turns a debate into a quarrel, which leads to fake promises and in turn leaves a community full of unhappy citizens. I believe this the one of the major reasons for the slow growth in a developing nation like ours.

Thus debating is a topic that requires ample debating and should be embedded into the minds of our future generations. It should be introduced into middle & secondary schools and should be taught to young minds as a compulsory subject at least for 2-4 years. This is how our future caretakers will learn how to make their voices heard, give their opinions value, and with time bring about the solutions that are necessary to make Bangladesh the nation that we all aspire it to be.


The writer is a senior lecturer of English Department, Viqarunnisa
Noon School & College