What is Better than Debate?
Posted by paulipoldie on November 1, 2010
FOR THE MOST PART, debating is frustrating. If your objective is to change your opponent’s mind, debating is a largely useless and futile exercise. If you’re debating in public, that’s a different story, because you can change the audiences’ minds if you debate well. But one-on-one, debate is an impotent weapon in the war of ideas.
You know people who believe Islam is a religion of peace and that you are an Islamophobic bigot for thinking otherwise, and you would like to change their minds. If you try to do it with debate, if you try to do it by answering arguments with arguments, no matter how good you are at arguing, no matter how many facts are in your favor, no matter how articulately you put your message across, the odds are a hundred to one against you succeeding.
I’m sure you’ve already discovered the painful and frustrating truth of this. Back and forth, right and wrong, will not work. You cannot penetrate.
To have any real impact, you need more powerful weapons at your command. What am I talking about? I am talking about a way of influencing that you can add to the process of debating, such as dealing with presuppositions (the assumptions your listener started with), or working on small, incremental changes over time, or using Cialdini’s principles of influence, or using NLP rapport techniques, or becoming more charismatic.
What we need is transformational dialog. Not mere debate. We need influence, not mere argument. We need to effectively persuade, not just get peoples’ hackles up and let them dig themselves deeper into their position.
The following is a list of ideas you can use — ideas you can add to your attempts to educate people about Islam. You already have “argument” in your arsenal. Below are additional weapons you can use. We’ll be adding more articles to this list in the near future, but we can start with these:
Let’s not get stuck answering argument for argument in one-on-one debates. Presenting a logical, factual argument to answer an argument is a relatively weak tool because the other side of the debate often uses it equally well. We have more effective tools at our disposal, and we should learn to use them to our advantage. Failure is not an option. We must open the minds of our fellow non-Muslims and we must do it quickly.