Public discussion is important. Developing a dialogue and maintaining a tone of civility even in staunch disagreement is the mark of a developed society.
President Abraham Lincoln said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”
Basically the man is saying, unless you have an answer, or are going to ask a thoughtful question, you should sit there and listen.
We lapse in our ability to think critically. Take topics as something deeper than face value.
As a result of this deficit, we’ve eliminated a need for cognitive debate.
#1. If you aren’t familiar with the topic, don’t offer to lead the discussion.
I’m a strong believer in credentials. Life experience counts. Regurgitating information you’ve heard from someone else does not.
#2. It’s not personal.
Well, at least most of the time it isn’t. If you disagree with a topic or have a different perspective to share, your job is not to degrade your counter’s credibility. You are not a litigator. You are not. Nope. Stop right there.
#3. The last word isn’t as important as you think.
Just because you say the last thing doesn’t mean that it’s what people will remember. More likely if you’ve said something foolish, there is no return.
But, like with most conversations, there is someone on the receiving end. (Hopefully)
If you happen to be knowledgeable on the subject matter and recognize that your counterpart is somewhat less so, your role is to be polite. You can correct appropriately when information is erroneous, but other than that… you’re just instigating an irrational person in what should be a rational discussion.
Always practice humility. Always listen. Always remember, you don’t know everything.
Feel free to mock quietly as you walk away. Actually, feel obligated. Just quietly.