I love debating. I also get easily frustrated while in a debate. That is because people ignore the ground rules that are general to debating as an institution as well as those specific to the topic being debated. Without these ground rules, a debate can have unintended, sometimes even undesirable consequences. All debates are not equal, but all debates ought to have the following in place, since, after all, good debating is a virtue and the skill must be earned and honed.
1. Rule Vs Exception — Perhaps the biggest thing people do to derail a good debate is focus on exceptions. Life is 80–20. Focusing on the 80% helps you not just with debates, but life itself ;)
2. Swaying from original topic — Every debate has to have a conclusion. Which means you have to have a topic of debate. Debates that start without one, go randomly and conclude with “whatever”. Not good.
3. Time limit and debate manners — Speaking loud to emphasize your point, speaking loud to prevent another from talking, speaking violently are all out-of-line behaviors. Sometimes I wish we had moderators, like we did in school, in real-life debates.
4. Its not personal — Unless the debate topic warrants it, there is no need to take personal offense from points others make in a debate. I see people do this all the time. The result? They become violent, overly-defensive and lose the spirit of the debate.
5. Ceteris Paribus — In economics, Ceteris Paribus means you have to hold “all other things constant”. Sometimes people change too many parameters in a discussion, that they soon forgot where they started or what they were trying to accomplish. They also confuse and frustrate other participants of the debate.
I am not completely innocent of all of these crimes, but hey, I am admitting its still a crime. Plus, my points should not look like I am talking about a classroom-style, academic exercise of debate — but what do everyday in our lives, at meetings, parties, hangouts etc…I wish people were a little more aware of this. Good debaters are hard to come by.