When talking about arguing and debating, most of us think about politicians. Those big scenarios where they offend each other in the most politely way they can, many times approaching ridiculousness.

Almost every day, we are led to debate and argue about something. Far from these structured environments, most of us don’t even realize that’s what we’re doing.

Arguing as part of debating

Arguing and debating are two different things yet, closely related. Argumentation is a vital part of any debate. You present your point of view based on facts and ideas that ideally make sense and sustain it.

I emphasize “ideally,” because our daily lives are full of situations where people use senseless arguments. Frequently, even personal attacks are used to impose opinions.

Debating is not a fight over who is right and who is wrong. Your opinion comes from facts and principles. Those are the main characters in a debate.

Social Media – the democratization of debate

In the last decade, social networks such as Facebook or Twitter became prominent in public debates. With the wide-spread access to the Internet, more people are able to participate in public debate and give their opinion. They gained a voice they wouldn’t have had otherwise. The quality of the discussion should improve due to the diversity of ideas and life experiences.

However, social media is far from an ideal environment to debate any topic. What we face in this kind of environment is people who don’t know how to argue, have zero data to back their arguments and are quick to escalate their disagreement to personal attacks, offensive lines, and an absolute lack of respect.

Empathy behind a screen

One of the reasons this happens is the sense of safety you feel when protected by a screen. The average person would write things on social media they wouldn’t ever say personally. Arguments quickly become personal.

Three words could summarize the previous paragraph: lack of empathy. You can argue that it’s also a matter of cowardliness or lack of principles. Well, maybe it is.

However, empathy is of massive importance in public debate and argumentation. If you aren’t able to empathize with what the other person is telling you, it means you don’t understand the arguments you’re criticizing. If you don’t understand, how can you criticize?

When you’re debating or involved in an argument, you’re criticizing the ideas, not the person. Try to always refer to the idea itself and not to the person while you’re refuting it.

Public Speaking to the world

With this new world, new possibilities arrived and also new challenges. Whether you’re giving an online course with a closed, controlled group or live streaming a speech on Facebook, YouTube or any other platform you can think of, you must be ready to face adversity.

The fact that the vehicle of delivery is different doesn’t mean you should ignore what you already know about public speaking. You must know your topic very well and prepare your speech to exhaustion, as well as work on timing and voice tones, etc. Knowing your audience and find ways to adapt your speech to that audience is crucial in public speaking. This can be challenging in the digital world; however, some research on the users of the platform can’t hurt.

Every platform has its particularities. It has different target audiences, different patterns of interaction, different ways of being noticed. We know, for example, that generally, Twitter has a younger audience than Facebook. Or that successful Instagram posts have a lot of hashtags (#), while on Facebook, the emojis are the winners. You must get as much information about the platform as you can.

On top of that, come the specifics of being on-line for whoever happens to stop by. The first thing that comes to mind is the numbers. How many people will be watching me? You may get scared because they are too many; you may be sad because they are too few.

Many platforms display the number of people watching you at every moment. Hide it if possible. Knowing the exact amount of people that are watching can alter your behavior. When possible, hide that information until the end of the speech and focus on give your best presentation.

A good talk requires you to connect with the audience, no matter the size. This is one of the great challenges of online speeches. How do reach someone through the camera and build a connection? Don’t fear to look directly into the camera. Practice that many times before you go live. Watch other speeches and conferences. Analyze who you liked to hear and why?

Not being as good as you’d like is something that might upset anyone. Yet, I believe that the biggest fear of an online speech will be the comments. Whether you’re actually talking or just writing a post, it can be seen and commented by anyone.

You can’t control that, but you can control how you deal/answer to them. Some platforms allow you to erase comments and even block belligerent people from actively participating in the discussion. Don’t be afraid of using those tools. If someone is disrespectful or personally attacking you or others, block them.

Avoid going into pointless discussions. It does not benefit you or your brand and can harm your presentation. Your viewers don’t want to watch you arguing uselessly. Warn the person and try to bring them into the right direction. If you can’t, ignore them.

Arguing effectively and respectfully

With Virtual Orator, our goal is making our clients more apt to public speaking, by helping them training their skills and finding the best way to reach their goals. The ability to argue properly and effectively makes you more confident to speak in public by making you more assertive. It also helps you to face the fear of the questions and comments the audience can make.

When you’re defending an idea, you should carefully prepare your arguments. Why do you believe in what you’re saying? Prepare a set of talking points to help you keep track of what you want to say. There is no point in preparing an actual speech because you’ll be responding to another person’s ideas. Focus on the facts with which you disagree and the reasons why.

While expressing your point of view, avoid overwhelming the other party with complex data or sophisticated words. Keep the message simple and easy to understand, and you’ll have a higher quality in your debate.

The whole idea of debating is not about forcing your beliefs on someone else. It’s about to understand and respect other points of view, even if you’re in disagreement.

Arguing is an interesting exercise to make that helps you to develop your assertiveness and confidence in public speaking.

Cátia is a psychologist who is passionate about helping children develop and train social skills.


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