Delicious Debating or How To Win Your Argument
A few days ago Silitheithel and I were on our way home with our guest Anakxu. We had been at the debating society that Silith likes so much. Anakxu had felt a bit out of place, so Silith was trying to explain how debating works. We were wandering around the Help Board when Anakxu tugged at my sleeve. I saw a huge group of people, shouting at each other, whispering and apparently not doing anything nearly as civilized (Silith’s wording, not mine) as the debaters did at the society. While Silith jumped at the opportunity to explain even more to Anakxu, it came to me that maybe some other people would be interested in learning about proper debating.
Now, real life isn’t anything like a debating society. You might meet people that are just interested in winning an argument and don’t care for proper etiquette, or people who shout at you until you back away. This, however, does not mean that debating techniques cannot help you. They may even help you win your argument or, failing that, to leave it without losing. Yes, it’s possible! And the rules are simple.
Part A: Encountering Trouble
Imagine you’re on your favourite board, posting happily away when suddenly someone else challenges you. They might say you’re a “n00b” or that your account is too young for you to have a clue about anything. You might want to throw a Meepit at them, but try to follow these guidelines instead:
0. Respect. Respect the other players and TNT. This is the key not only for debating, but also for everything else in life. Everyone has their reasons and no one “deserves” any mistreatment. If you feel a rage coming on, think about how it would feel to be on the receiving end.
1. Breathe consciously. Remember that this is not all your life is about, don’t take it too seriously. After all, in a few hours you might be sitting on Mystery Island, joking with the Tiki Tack Man and not even remember you argued about the definition of a n00b.
2. Read what your sparring partner wrote. Don’t just glance at it; this can lead to misunderstandings and more trouble than it’s all worth. Generally: Patience helps. If you’re not in a rush to get anywhere, you’re in less danger of making mistakes you’ll regret.
3. Think: Do you really need to reply? This is in fact the most important point. If the post you want to reply to is...
... full of typos: You’ll probably spend half the time trying to decipher what to be insulted about. Why not go buy that scroll you’ve had your eye on instead?
... full of insults: Why bother? Someone who’ll insult you just for the fun of it will hardly listen to what you have to say, even if it’s logic itself.
... some sort of begging: You’re not going to give them anything anyway. Don’t waste your breath.
Part B: Replying Properly
Okay, so you feel like proving them wrong about your intelligence or potential n00bness.
1. Don’t insult. Not only is it not very nice – remember, there’s a person on the other side – but it can get you into a lot of trouble with TNT. It also makes you look silly. Many people resort to insults when they can’t win, so using them makes you look like a big loser. And your aim is to keep your pride intact, remember? (; By the way, insults include the word “n00b”. If they aren’t one (even the most experienced players make mistakes or forget things) you’ve just made a fool of yourself. If they are, why are you bothering to reply? Arguing with a n00b makes you one.
Person A: Of course there are flying Meepits! You’re such a n00b!
You: No, I’m not! I’ve been on Neopets for two years!
Person A: n0000000000b!!!!
You: You’re the n00b!
Etc. This won’t get you anywhere and you’ll never find out whether there are flying Meepits. If you are insulted or feel like you’re being harassed (there are some excellent petpages out there on what exactly qualifies as harassing), just report the person. Do not post that you have reported. Why?
Firstly, this doesn’t help you with your cause and just takes up useless space. It also may bump a board better left to sink out of view.
Secondly, it can be considered spam.
Thirdly, if not for the above reasons, you may invoke the vengeance of the person reported. Things can get very ugly. Why cause yourself trouble?
2. Don’t patronise. This happens a lot, especially when older players or people with older accounts argue with their juniors. Patronising means talking down to someone, it’s basically an elegant way of calling someone a “n00b” and no better than that. You know you’re being patronised when someone calls you “honey” or “dear” and you don’t know them. It’ll remind you of a mother talking to her three-year-old in most cases.
Person A: Darling, why not go play somewhere else?
Patronising often comes with irony or sarcasm and it’s very aggressive in a subtle way. It makes the user seem arrogant and way too sure of themselves; after all, you don’t pretend to be someone else’s mother, do you? Don’t patronise someone who’s trying to patronise you, either. That’d make two people acting like they’re someone’s mother. In fact, it’ll probably sound like two three-year-olds explaining the world to one another in a “mum loves me more” way.
3. Keep your answer readable. Don’t use your shift key on whole words or even sentences. Not using capital letters is fine, however. You don’t need a thousand exclamation marks to show you mean something, or as many question marks if you’re asking. It just makes your answer more difficult to read and people will lose patience with you. And if people just leave you can neither win nor prove a point.
Annoying: OMG!!!OMG!1!OMG!!! I JUST saW a FLyING MEEEEEPIIIIITTTT!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Interesting: Wow, look! A flying Meepit!
4. Think about what you want. Do you want to win? Do you want to explain something? Phrase your answer accordingly. If you want to explain something, you might want to give all the information you have and you’ll take your time answering, maybe do some research. This isn’t always necessary for “winning”.
Person A: My account is the oldest on Neopets!
You explain: No, see, *checks* it’s year ten in Neopia and your account is only *checks* three years old.
You win: Ha, no, I’ve been here longer!
Both prove your point, but I’m sure you see the difference. The second seems rather ruder than the first, so someone intent on trouble will use it “against” you.
5. Logic makes the world go ‘round. It does. This takes a lot of practice, but if you read carefully and think properly, you’ll be able to find new loopholes in your opponent’s argumentation and use them to your advantage.
Person A: That Petpet isn’t on the list, you can’t find it anywhere on the Shop Wiz or the Trading Post or anywhere! It’s not released!
You: So just because no one wants to get rid of it, it doesn’t exist yet?
Person A: Uh. Erm. Oh.
6. Don’t be baited. If someone misunderstands you, post an answer explaining what you meant. If they continue to misunderstand you on purpose or don’t read what you wrote or just seem bent on arguing with you – leave them be. Just because they’ve had a bad day, you don’t have to give them a chance to vent their feelings on innocent passers-by.
Part C: Knowing When to Stop
So you’ve been arguing for half an hour, drawing the attention of a huge crowd of people and you still haven’t decided on whether Person A was scammed or hacked? Maybe it’d be best to agree to disagree. Silith loves this part about debating and it confused Anakxu to no end. Why stop when you know you’re right? If you’ve said everything you have to say and the other person still won’t agree, what makes you think that will change if you continue to say the same sentences over and over again? So you don’t want to seem like a loser. There’s a simple way around that.
You: Alright, seems like we can’t agree. Thanks for the chat. Bye.
And then you leave. Easy, right? That way you’ve kept your opinion and the other person has too. Both of you have won.
Silith enjoys debating so much because with people who respect these simple guidelines, she always wins. How? Well. Either she’s right, she wins because people respect that. Or she’s wrong, so she finds out why she’s wrong and finds out what’s right all at once. She wins information. This means she knows more about anything discussed, without feeling hurt or insulted. It’s a fun way of learning.
So, we hope you’ll debate more and argue less and Silith invites anyone who’s interested to come along to the next society meeting! Although, judging by the dazed look Anakxu gave me when I finally wished him good night, you might not want to get my colourful Gelert too excited.