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All too often, debates with ideological opponents turn into rants and screaming matches. That is not a debate, it is an argument. Arguments rarely result in productive dialogue and can destroy meaningful relationships. Even if the individual we are debating will never agree with our position, having a productive, factual, and understanding debate can move other listeners to our side. As conservatives, we do not win a debate unless we both prove our point and provide others with a unique perspective to consider. It is important that conservatives understand the best tactics for keeping a debate civil and making our points as clearly and confidently as possible, here are 10 tactics to follow to truly win the debate:

Actually listen to your opponent’s arguments

We sometimes get so caught up in making our own arguments that we do not even listen to the points the other side is presenting. By actively listening and taking note of our opponents points, we can formulate topical responses and find areas for common ground. Also, if you leave a debate feeling like you lost or did not articulate your point well, keeping note of your opponents points will allow you to further your research knowing exactly what to look for.

Turn their argument against them

Now that you have actually listened to your opponents claims, you can find ways to turn their argument on them. For example, individuals on the left will often argue that guns hurt innocent lives.

Conservatives can turn that argument saying, “you’re absolutely right, we must protect innocent lives. In fact, nearly 60 percent of Americans polled by NBC News/ Wall Street Journal believe that guns increase safety, so protecting innocent lives starts at gun ownership.”

Agree on an overall goal

This is an important step in finding common ground with individuals whom you disagree with. Imagine a healthcare debate, often liberals will attack conservatives saying that we do not want people to have access to care they need. We can quickly stop this by agreeing on an optimal goal. For example, one can say, “to be clear, we both believe people should have access to the care that they need.” Then further explain that conservatives believe the best and more comprehensive care comes from the private sector, not the public. This dispels the typical “conservatives are heartless” argument and instead places the focus on the process, not the outcome. By agreeing on an overall goal, we can find common ground and debate the true issues.

Get off Facebook

Effective discourse and debate rarely occurs in the comments of a Facebook post. People are emboldened behind the keyboard and often react emotionally and aggressively rather than factually and compassionately. Things are misread. Typos are called out. No progress is made. When someone starts fighting on Facebook, ask them to direct message you to discuss the issue more or offer to get coffee and talk if the person lives nearby. Direct conservation is far more effective and will produce real results, unlike a loaded comment section.

Keep a running sources doc

This is perhaps the most beneficial way to both stay on top of news and ensure you are being accurate in your points. Have a google document or a note file on your phone with a list of topics you discuss often. Keep a running list of links to articles, journals, studies, etc. that support your position. In a debate, you will easily be able to refer back to your list to provide evidence for your point. Every time you read an article and think “wow, that got to the heart of what I believe” or “that statistic really backs my point” add it to the list and refer back to it later when necessary. This will be a lifesaver when you are mid debate and quickly need to produce evidence to back your claim.

Check back on this list often. You might notice one day that you have many links relating to immigration and healthcare but none related to education, this means you should spend some time reading about education and updating your source list. Not only will you be able to use this list when debating an opponent, but also to brush up your own knowledge on different topics.

Use facts and feelings

It is no secret to many conservatives that the left often gets emotional during debates. While conservatives prefer to rely on facts, we cannot act like emotionless robots. We must be compassionate. For example, as much as we all want to scream at David Hogg constantly for using his experience as a catalyst for disarming millions of law abiding Americans, the truth is, he experienced a tragedy most of us cannot imagine. Combatting his emotions with a string of facts might be accurate, but it is not always kind. Instead, we must acknowledge that he faced a tragedy, but remind him that his policies will put many more in tragic circumstances. We must also tell the stories of women who survived with a firearm as their protection, families who used a gun to prevent a break in, and mass shootings that were stopped with a good guy with a gun.

We must remember that there are real people behind the numbers we share, and their stories deserve to be told. Use facts, but also have feelings.

Take a new perspective on your issue

Always dive deeper into an issue. Do not settle for the typical Republican talking points. My favorite topic to debate is immigration, I come from a family of legal immigrants so I offer a new perspective that is not often heard on the conservative side. Find the issues that you are uniquely affected by or read significantly about an issue until you find a new, diverse perspective that you can add to the debate. If someone has heard the same argument over and over again, just because you are saying it this time does not mean they will be convinced. The goal should be to make someone say, “wow, I never thought of that point of view.”

Identify the “brink”

People love to make large claims about how horrible the world will be when [insert random event] happens. “Trump is going to crash the global economy,” “We will be in war with North Korea,” “Nazi’s will take over the country.” Identifying the brink is as simple as asking “when?”. The brink is essentially the point of no return, when everything falls over the edge. Anytime someone makes a radical claim about something they presume will happen, ask them when this will happen and why it has not happened yet. “Trump will crash the global economy!” “Well, Trump has been president for nearly two years, when will the crash happen?”

Conversely, always make sure you have realistic impacts for your points. Do not make vague claims about what might happen, but focus on real effects for policies.

Set a clear structure for your points

It can be easy for us to devolve into ranting our points rather than articulating them clearly. To ensure our points always come across clearly, stick to a clear structure of claim, warrant, impact.

The claim is one sentence summarizing your perspective. The warrant is evidence to support your perspective. The impact is the overall effect the point has or the requested policy change.

To rebuild on a previously mentioned argument: [claim] Most Americans believe gun ownership makes them safer. [warrant] This was illustrated best in a March 2018 poll by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal which found that 58 percent of Americans view gun ownership as a method of increasing safety. [impact] Enacting gun control will make infringe on a majority of Americans right to feel safe in their environment.

Using this basic structure will keep your arguments clear.

Know when to agree to disagree

There will be times when you cannot win. There will be times when there is no common ground. Yes, there will be times when the argument becomes personal. There will be times when frustration takes over. Always know when to walk away. A political conversation is rarely worth losing a friend, there is no shame in agreeing to disagree.