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Oftentimes Cross Ex is seen as the time to trap your opponent and get them to concede key information, but when I was first starting debate I struggled a lot with this because I was nowhere near aggressive enough to get my opponent to admit anything they didn’t want to. So I ended up with a far less aggressive approach that still ended up working for me, because the vast majority of the questions I asked had blatantly obvious answers. Here’s how I was able to use questions with obvious answers to have a successful CX:

1: building up to less obvious questions

If you ask a question in CX, even if there is an actual correct answer, if that answer is not immediately obvious to the judge your opponent is able to answer otherwise, forcing you to have to rebut their answer later. But if you ask questions about the premises leading up to the final answer, with questions that have blatantly obvious answers, you can lead them to the answer you want in the final question. For example when I asked the question last year: “Can human rights be limited for justified reasons?” I often got the answer, “no” But when I asked a set of question with obvious answers that established why human rights were limited I was able to lead them to the answer I wanted:

– Can we agree that you have the human right of freedom? 

– Should you have the freedom to hit someone who’s not hurting anyone? 

– So that’s a justified limit on your human right of freedom?

– So human rights can be justifiably limited?

While the last question’s answer didn’t seem obvious at first the first 2 questions did and after asking them they made the last question’s answer seem obvious.

If you are struggling with your opponent’s not answering the way you want you may need to find a way to lead your opponent to the right answer either by getting them to agree to the premises of you final point or by getting them to agree to hypotheticals or examples that show your point.

2 Saves time during your speeches

If you ever have left over time in your Crosses one of the simplest things you can do is ask your opponent to agree to the obvious premises in your case. It might not have been terribly hard to prove in your case, or possibly even an assertion you could have made that was so obvious it doesn’t need a warrant, but by bringing it up in extra time in your CX you can save some of the time you would have spent talking about it in your speech.

3 Endearing yourself to the judge

Debate isn’t just about winning the argument, it is also about winning the judge, which means that making your case more interesting to listen to is often helpful. Asking a question with an obvious answer in a humorous way can be a quick way to get your judge to laugh or get them interested in where you are going with the question. “Can we agree that human life is the highest value?” is way less interesting than, “Can we agree murder is really bad?” and “Are you alive? Does that affect your ability to debate?” is more interesting than “Could a terminal illness affect someone’s ability to finish their job?”

Main take away

Sometimes if you are struggling to get the answer you want, you need to break up your question into simpler questions that prove the same point. These simpler questions can be, if phrased correctly, a way to make your case more interesting for the judge. And if you have time use CX to get your opponent to agree to some of the more obvious premises in your case so you don’t have to spend as much time on them in your speeches

D. J. an economics major at North Carolina State University. Her debate philosophy is that debate should be fun for everyone, so keep it ethical so your opponent can enjoy the round, keep it entertaining so the judge enjoys it, and keep it lively and humorous so you can enjoy the round too.

To learn more about D. J. you can read her bio here: https://www.ethosdebate.com/djmendenhall/ or book coaching with her here: https://www.ethosdebate.com/xl-3/

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