10 Things You Should Absolutely Never Do During a Debate


You should never state, "in my opinion." That weakens whatever you are saying. Unless you are presenting facts or statistics, whatever you are saying is obviously your opinion.

Let me just state right off the bat: This is not me preaching from a soapbox. I'm guilty of everything I'm about to mention in this post.

I enjoy a good debate. But oftentimes, largely due to my character (I tend to be a polarizing person) a debate I'm having with someone will sour. For instance, this morning I was having a debate with somebody. It started off pleasant enough, but by the end of it...

10 Things You Should Absolutely Never Do During a Debate

Put it this way: I probably won't ever talk to the person I was debating with again, and they'll probably never talk to me again. I'm not going to call out that person or link to that debate, because that would be violating G@G terms and conditions (not to mention, I said some stupid shit.)

Needless to say, that debate was productive and caused stress to both parties involved. Maybe I was in the wrong, maybe they were in the wrong. Doesn't matter much. I'm fairly sure both of us felt shitty after that exchange.

And hey, maybe it just wasn't meant to be. Maybe we just have two opposing personalities. Who knows. Maybe any conversation we had would have soured.

Anyways, instead of leaving that debate feeling angry and pissed off, I decided instead to analyze the debate and see where it soured. Based on that, and general knowledge, I have compiled some things you should never do during a debate that I will now share with you.

1) Don't keep playing if you're in checkmate

10 Things You Should Absolutely Never Do During a Debate

Have you ever played chess and you end up doing something stupid and the person you're playing against gets you in checkmate? But instead of conceding defeat you sit there for twenty minutes (well, hopefully not twenty but at least a couple) analyzing the board, not wanting to believe you've lost. And then you see a way out of checkmate and you say "that's not checkmate, see I can go here" and they point out another piece and that won't work either. It fucking sucks.

I've played chess games where I've lost and I've done that and I've played chess games where the other person lost and they've done that. At a certain point, there is no point in looking any further because you lost. You. Lost.

If your entire argument hinges on a particular factoid or piece of data and you don't believe that piece of data exists and it actually does and the other person makes you aware of it and you still want to keep arguing, that's playing when you're in checkmate. That happened to me earlier. I didn't have all the information. When presented the information I didn't have my point was nonexistent. I kept debating anyways. Playing when in checkmate.

Certainly in a debate it's good to consider all possible options and to question the data and statistics. But if you are flat out wrong, just admit you are flat out wrong and concede defeat. Much like a game of chess, you can't win every debate.

2) Don't bring up your intelligence, IQ, accomplishments or any other extraneous information

10 Things You Should Absolutely Never Do During a Debate

This is how you sound.

Even saying the words "I am intelligent" can be a big mistake in a debate setting. Because if you say "I am intelligent" to a person you are debating that person hears "you are not intelligent" and then that person brings up all the ways in which they are actually more intelligent and then you debate the credibility of intelligence tests. This can go on for hours.

Unless you are debating who is more intelligent (don't, that's a stupid pointless debate) intelligence doesn't matter (certainly, intelligence helps you in a debate, but just because you are more intelligent doesn't mean you win the debate). Going back to my chess anology, if somebody had me in checkmate and I said "yeah, but my IQ is 157" that wouldn't change the fact that the other person had me in checkmate.

A less intelligent person can win a given debate due to mistakes on the other person's part. So unless you want to get into a debate about who is more intelligent, a continuous debate in which neither side concedes defeat, avoid mentioning accomplishments and intelligence. Those don't impress the person you are debating with, and come off as an attack.

3) Don't condescend

10 Things You Should Absolutely Never Do During a Debate

Is much as I hate to admit it, I do this a lot myself. I define words or clarify things that don't need clarifying. Sometimes I do it purposely, but most of the time I do it on accident treating the person I am debating with as an idiot who knows nothing.

When writing an informative essay, this is a good approach. When debating, this is a horrible approach. If you're ever debating with someone always assume that person knows more, not less. Even if you use a word that they don't know the meaning of, they can figure it out in the context of a sentence. Unless they ask you, don't define anything. If you think they may not know the meaning of the word, make sure to structure your sentence in a way that makes the meaning abundantly clear.

Nobody likes to feel stupid, and if the person you are debating with feels stupid, they will undoubtedly lash out at you. Treat the person you're talking to as just as intelligent, even if you don't think they are. This will make them more likely to keep debating with you and keep the debate from devolving into "I'm smarter then you."

Also, try to avoid using sarcasm and emojis. That can rub people the wrong way. I know because I've done it and been on the receiving end, and neither felt particularly good.

4. See the big picture; don't nitpick

10 Things You Should Absolutely Never Do During a Debate

if you can figure out what this picture means let me know, because I am stumped. Is it just a picture of someone looking at a big picture. Or does the person not realize the furniture is missing?

In my entire life I've taken one personality test. According to this test I am a detailed thinker but not infrequently I fail to see the big picture. At the time I disagreed with it- at the time I was much younger and didn't want to believe I had any weaknesses. Looking back on it, this test was extremely accurate. Because I so much wasn't seeing the big picture that I didn't even realize what the big picture was (if that makes any sense.)

Not infrequently I tend to focus on one tiny little detail or point instead of looking at the entire post or the whole of what someone is trying to say. The result of doing this; I end up looking stupid.

To be honest, I'm not sure if that has to do with seeing the big picture or not. Like I said, I struggle with big picture thinking.

5. Consider their point of view

If there's any downtime during the debate, take a second and imagine arguing from their point of view and what points you would bring up.

10 Things You Should Absolutely Never Do During a Debate

Maybe just maybe an argument will occur to you that supports their case that they haven't presented. In that case, you can find common ground with the debater and there is no winner or loser because both of you won and both of you lost a little.

6) Research carefully- don't just pull facts and statistics out of thin air

10 Things You Should Absolutely Never Do During a Debate

I can't tell you how many times I've done this. I assume something about a certain topic something that seems like common sense to me, don't do any research at all to confirm my assumptions and end up being entirely wrong.

Anything you say in a debate can be used against you. So choose your words carefully. Don't say never, always, or everybody because those are usually just exaggerations and will likely be challenged by the person you are debating.

7) Make the other person feel good

10 Things You Should Absolutely Never Do During a Debate

Expanding on a point I made earlier; make the other person feel good in some way. Make the other person feel smart. Have them explain something you already know about. They'll enjoy knowing something you don't and that will make them more willing to debate. Might sound kind of stupid, but try it sometime- you'll be amazed at how well it works. If they use an obscure word you're fairly sure you know the definition to, ask anyways. And besides, maybe you'll learn something new.

And if you don't know the definition of a word, ask. Don't assume that they will, but you can. Like I said earlier, they probably won't ask and they'll just pretend they know what a certain word means. But you can be honest and ask them. This eliminates the possibility of you being wrong.

8) Anticipate their response

10 Things You Should Absolutely Never Do During a Debate

If you can anticipate how the person you are debating with is going to respond you have more time to structure and form an argument. Listen to them while they are responding, but if you see it heading down familiar road, be ready to respond. If possible, when speaking try to think about how they are going to respond to each point so you already have a counterargument to their point.

Going back to my earlier point though, don't say I already know how you're going to respond. I do this all the time and it is not only ineffective, it makes the other person feel uncomfortable. And, like I said before, don't condescend. You especially shouldn't say this because rarely do you actually know how they are going to respond. You might guess correctly sometimes, but other times you might be flat out wrong.

9. Poke holes in your own arguments

10 Things You Should Absolutely Never Do During a Debate

In this case, the argument is a delicious pound cake

Needless to say, in any debate you will be poking holes in the other person's arguments. However, instead of just poking holes in the other person's argument, try poking holes in your own.

This has to do with momentum. If you poke holes in your own argument and come up with a response (if you don't, see different POV section) you'll be prepared. Plus, if they poke holes in your argument, you are on the defense. If you poke holes in your own argument you are still on the offense and even more so because you're not just noticing flaws in the other person's argument, you're noticing flaws in your own.

Final Point: DON'T FLOOD

10 Things You Should Absolutely Never Do During a Debate

Wait for the other person to respond before adding on. Don't use big words to try to throw the other person off. Don't overwhelm the person with information or facts and statistics.

The goal is to win the debate fairly. The goal isn't to have the other person quit because they feel overwhelmed.


As someone who enjoys debating, I enjoyed putting this together. Hopefully you enjoy reading it and find it helpful in some way. Comment below what you thought of this. Peace out.

10 Things You Should Absolutely Never Do During a Debate
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Most Helpful Guy

  • BlueCoyote
    Good list. Specifically for the Americans on here I have to add one point when debating with foreigners as myself: don't swear so much. I have noticed (both in real life when I lived in the US and on the internet) that almost nobody swears as much as Americans do. The problem with this is not so much the swear words by themselves (I don't find "shit" or "fuck" particularly offensive) but the fact that swearing can come across as very aggressive. I think in the US, swearing has partially lost its aggressiveness because people do it so much (especially young people). For example somebody saying "hell yeah" or "fuck no" probably doesn't sound very aggressive to most young Americans. However, in other parts of the world, even for me as European, this kind of constant swearing tends to feel very intimidating and aggressive. It's like somebody pulling out a machete during a boxing match. It might not be a full-fledged insult but it makes the opponent feel threatened and it makes him/her want to respond with aggressiveness as well. It's almost impossible to have a fruitful debate this way. I have noticed about myself that I either react with over-the-top aggressiveness (insults etc.) towards a lot of swearing in a debate or that I simply break it up. For example yesterday a guy (an American) said to me in a debate on GaG "What the fuck are you talking about?" For him, this might be just another way of phrasing "What do you mean?" but for me, it sounded extremely aggressive and I couldn't help but break up the debate without responding anything. Rationally I know I shouldn't take these things personal because they're not actual insults but emotionally I just can't deal with them because my mentality isn't so direct or however you want to call it. I'm sure other non-Americans feel similar.
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    • GoldMeddle

      @BlueCoyote Interesting perspective. Americans certainly do cuss a lot. I mostly cuss for emphasis and humor. But I can see how that would be unpleasant if you aren't used to that. Honestly most curse words lose their power and meaning in America because they're used all the time. Americans just enjoy saying them.

      I certainly do think Americans are more aggressive when it comes to debating. Despite the tips I suggested, I often become very aggressive during debates.

      I guess I can chalk it up to cultural differences but I'll keep that in mind if I'm ever debating with a foreigner. In most cases, if you were debating with another American cursing wouldn't be much of an issue- it would be the norm as a matter of fact. My uncle is from Switzerland though, and I've never heard him curse either. Then again, there hasn't exactly been cause for him to do so.

      Nevertheless, I appreciate the comment and the alternate perspective.

Most Helpful Girl

  • Anonymous
    Good tips. Everyone should agree to and abide that type of ethical code. Debating ethically separates a real debate from mere argument.

    Politics: This is worth debating about. Well, as long as you have a democratic government. If you live in a totalitarian society, then the government only cares about your political beliefs when the beliefs disagree with the government's ideology.

    Sexual ethics: Sex is a bit of a touchy issue. The reason is that people have different sexual ethics, and even if one position is significantly stronger and more logically sound than the other, people wouldn't be persuaded very much, because they put their lives and identities on the line.

    Religion: Religion is a tricky topic to tackle, because people have their own beliefs regarding religion and base their lives on the philosophy. If the religion works for them, then they may be extremely resilient to change. Only when a person struggles to live by the religion in some way or make sense with the religion philosophically, that person may seek a different philosophy and ethical code to live by.
    Like 2 People
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What Girls & Guys Said

  • Righttobeararms83
    For me statistics are unreliable as they are often done only to support who ever funds them views.
    The worst thing about debating on the Internet is that everyone is somehow a professor on everything or they have an aunt or uncle who's a lawyer or doctor or something.
    Like 4 People
    • GoldMeddle

      Too true. Earlier today i was debating with someone. I said im not stupid (in response to them saying i was). In response, they listed like 1000 things they supposedly achieved and claimed they were a supergenius engineering master. Drives me crazy. i do it too sometimes. The irony is that know it alls dont know it all-on the contrary they dont know enough to realize they dont know it all.

    • good points great take

    • GoldMeddle

      thank you i appreciate it

  • Callieeee
    Avoiding insults is almost impossible when debate religion. From my atheist perspective Im challenging their whole worldview as preposterous for being based on faith instead of reason, which most theists are thoroughly insulted by.
    Like 2 People
    • GoldMeddle

      Yeah, debates about religion are rarely pleasant or nice. that is why i try to avoid them.

    • Laowke

      I never understood why people debate about religion. I am religious and I dont care what you think of my belief

    • Callieeee

      @Laowke see? All I did was mention the discussion and you're already offended.

    • Show All
  • Giacomanzo
    Mh... it depends on what is the purpose of the debate.
    Sometimes I like to be an a*hole. I'm really good at flooding the other person with so many words and technicalities in such a short period of time that he or she doesn't even realize what I'm saying doesn't actually make any sense at all.
    I like to be annoying.
    Like 1 Person
    • GoldMeddle

      Yeah, that's great if you want to annoy them. But if you actually want a solid debate, I wouldn't suggest doing that.

  • phil2
    also don't assume and judge based on your life experiences... I really don't like downers.. I mean I understand they think that since all relationships that they have seen failed then all relationships must fail but that doesn't mean they have to rain on my parade. Ok end of rant
    Like 2 People
  • Library
    These are great tips, but I would also add that people need to learn how to control their anger and not insult others in debates.
    Like 2 People
    • GoldMeddle

      @library yes, very true. I'm as guilty as anyone else of doing that

    • Library

      Me too and I feel guilty about it.

  • zagor
    Yeah I pulled #2 when I was arguing with a guy I was doing some contract programming work for; we were both tired and grumpy. Two days later he emailed me cancelling; so I never got paid for the latter part of the work I did.
    Like 1 Person
  • YourFutureEx
    Excellent. The only problem is that the opposition turn the debates into arguments.
    Like 2 People
  • Saoirse_Nua
    I tend to avoid debates but they are very good bits of advice for anyone who enjoys a debate.
    Like 2 People
  • Nik1hil
    So practically it is okay if I get physical and break their teeth
    Like 1 Person
  • orphan
    I want to see these debates take place face to face... w/o google's help
    Like 2 People
    • Laowke

      People in the internet are very aggressive

  • Chico_brah
    I agree with everything but 3, 7, and 9.

    3) Having a condescending tone at the correct times and make other crawl into a corner of defeat. I debate like a pitbull.

    7) No, that is wrong on so many levels. I don't give a fuck about their feelings during a debate.

    9) You're not supposed to pick holes in your own argument and very rarely does this actually benefit you. A lot of the times the opposing side will not even notice these holes until you blatantly point them out. Sure you should think about everything, and anticipate different angles they might press... but if you're referring to pointing it out, then destroys any solidity or consistency you have in your stance.
    • Chico_brah

      "Wait for the other person to respond before adding on. Don't use big words to try to throw the other person off. Don't overwhelm the person with information or facts and statistics."

      This is also a ridiculous statement. The goal is to overwhelm your opponent. Articulating what needs to be said in the best way possible only works to your benefit. Facts and statistics are the foundational basis of any good debate. At that point you are just arguing your facts, thus your feelings. Remember when I said I don't give a fuck about your feelings?

    • Chico_brah

      This is a take on your style of debating. It is not to be considered sound advice for everyone reading. There is no generic approach for debating. The word absolutely should not be in the title.

    • GoldMeddle

      @Chico_Brah If you don't care about other people's feelings, these tips obviously aren't for you. These were tips for having a healthy debate. I'd be willing to bet that several of the debates you've "won" in the past weren't actually "won" the other person just quit- which might be the same thing to you, but to me that isn't the same thing at all.

      If your goal is to overwhelm your opponent and make them feel like shit feel free to ignore every tip listed. This was written from the perspective of "I want to have a healthy debate what are some things I should and shouldn't do." Not, "I want to humiliate the other person and make them feel like shit, what should I do."

      The original title had in my opinion in it. The idea was, after reading that title, I would start off with the advice don't say in my opinion. However it was removed from the title. Absolutely is just more forceful.

      If you can figure out the holes in your own argument you can prepare responses if your opponent does n

    • Show All
  • John_Doesnt
    All these are what Trump does and yet he's still winning.
  • GreatnessBack
    In other words, don't be Trump.
    Like 1 Person
  • relaxrelax
    :) LOL