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When we debate against cases that seem to turn the judge’s emotions into a mountain, it often feels impossible to recover and dream of winning the round. However, I believe that by harnessing the power of Cognitive Dissonance, you can create effective strategies for winning these rounds.

Not only has Cognitive Dissonance provided us with a vocabulary to understand the process of persuasion, as we saw in the previous article, it also gives us ideas for how to overcome certain types of persuasion. In the case of emotional persuasion, incorporating Cognitive Dissonance includes recognizing that the feeling of sympathy is specifically effective at eliciting certain actions. This is because it creates a particularly strong sense of Cognitive Dissonance if the judge was to vote against you. Therefore, in order to overcome it, it is best to face it head on by politely pointing out your opponent’s tactics while also explaining to your judges the alternative and the greater Cognitive Dissonance they will experience should they choose to vote for the opponent. Sometimes, it is more effective to see something written out, so below you will find an illustration of one way you can call out the manipulation of the opponent while maintaining the respect of your judge: 

“Judge, I understand what my opponents are advocating for. In many ways, I actually believe in the vision that they have painted. But if I was to only ask myself the questions they are prompting you to consider, I would become emotionally entangled with the concept of their plan. So much so that I would not feel equipped to make a decent decision due to a lack of clarity. Therefore, in an effort to balance out how they are directing your thoughts, I am hopeful that you will consider these questions as well.”

Here is where Cognitive Dissonance climbs the mountain: it has winsomely deconstructed the deception of the opponent and balanced it by showing the judge a greater turmoil that needs to be avoided–the turmoil that would ensue if they were to vote against you.

Jala Boyer has earned numerous 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place medals and competed at the NCFCA National Championship in five categories. As an intern on the Student Advisory Council of the NCFCA, Jala worked alongside the executive director, Kim Cromer, to learn the inner workings of competitive speech and debate, helping students create long-term and meaningful success. Jala is currently an Honors student at Liberty University studying communications with an emphasis in politics. To book a coaching session with Jala, follow this link https://www.ethosdebate.com/ coaching/book-coach/ 

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