Everything I have vs. Some things to consider – You can list out every thing you thought of, a full idea unload at the max of your ability, or demonstrate the confidence of selection. A more persuasive disposition implies that there is more you could have said but did not.
Bemusement– When others misrepresent your arguments or attack you, have a listening and “I see how you might have thought that” disposition. If it’s over the top, your maximum emotion is this: bemusement.
Auctioneer, Advocate, or Advisor– You may view your role as providing every option to your audience, and merely facilitating their own choices based on reasons you will never know. Or, you can do that tough thinking through the problem from every angle, and recommend and defend your advised approach to how to think about the issue: what’s the key issue? what’s the top risk with your own advice? Choose a persona and be that person.
Even if… – You more than aware that some of your opponents’ arguments are persuasive. Indeed, you acknowledge they challenged you and were interesting, but having thought of them previously… even if you find these arguments persuasive and we all agree to their validity, here is why you should still decide the other way.
Nothing to sell – We eschew phrases such as “my value,” because we do not own values. Rather, we have merely observed persuasive information—which stands apart from us—to which we are connecting our audience. We’re not selling anything, because deep down, our audience already has it… we’re just reminding them.
You don’t need to fear me – Our opponents are disarmed in cross-examination, realizing we have no conclusion or evil plot. Instead, our straightforward questions ask them to confirm or deny claims which are non-threatening. We know we can agree to 90% of what our opponents say (and should!), and merely disagree with the most important 10%. Bravo, opponents, for all the truth you have illumined.
Tough on close-mindedness – We are curious and open to hearing new things. When we’re surprised, we show our genuine feelings. But when someone stonewalls merely to stay in familiar territory, despite every reason not to, we know that we do not share the deepest assumption: an open mind.
I am water – I absorb your arguments; none of them hurt me with force. You can slap the water, hit the water, and even shoot the water with bullets, but my pain is the same: none. That’s because I am not my argument.
The more I learn, the less I know – I am confident admitting to lack of knowledge, because I every researched topic shows me ten more I need to know. I am not embarrassed to lack knowledge, merely to lack understanding of my own view.
Challenge me! – Our confidence is not that we can trounce someone, but that we truly want the best ideas to succeed. So the more challenge, the better, for the more complete and reasoned our audience’s final decision will become.
I don’t posture – I mean what I say and say what I mean.
Teacher, not conqueror – I am not here to assert myself over you. I am here to help the audience choose well, and will merely illuminate the door. I may lose, yet win.
I give more than I receive – I am willing to go the extra mile, even to my own hurt, even in a debate round, because that is who I am. Would you like my evidence? Have it all. Would you like me to agree to a commonly known fact that you haven’t proven? Happy to oblige. Would you like my brief? Have it.
Persuasion is Movement – We don’t try and determine what our audience already thinks, then pander to it by repeating it in so many words. Instead, we find where our audience is and move them somewhere even better.
Isaiah McPeak is the Head Coach and CEO of Ethos Debate. He has over 10 years experience in speech and debate, coaching 5 national champions and placing top 5 in multiple leagues himself. Outside of the debate world, he’s had years experience as an intelligence analyst, writer, rhetoric teacher, and communications coach. He is also the CEO of the new startup, statUP.
Isaiah is also author of Upside Down Debate, a 5-star rated book that teaches debate from a life-transference and Classical Rhetoric perspective.